National / Crime & Legal

Court approves use of GPS data in burglary trial

Kyodo

The Osaka District Court is upholding the use of data from police GPS tracking devices which officers attached to cars suspected of being used by criminals.

Presiding Judge Hidenori Nagai decided Tuesday to admit as evidence data from such devices even though they were installed without the owner’s knowledge, sources close to the matter said Wednesday. The judge decided that the use of a GPS device is not illegal as it does not violate the suspect’s privacy to any great extent.

The judicial decision is the first on the use of data from a GPS tracker in a criminal investigation, the defendant’s lawyer said. Prefectural police departments have used GPS devices since the National Police Agency in 2006 drew up guidelines on their use.

The court’s decision comes in the trial of a 36-year-old man charged with theft and unlawful entry into a public facility. He allegedly broke into a post office in Hyogo Prefecture in August 2013 and stole revenue stamps.

The defendant’s lawyer had urged the court to reject around 100 items of evidence collected through surveillance involving the GPS system, including video images.

Osaka prefectural police had installed GPS trackers without notice between May and December 2013 in 19 cars used by four men, including the defendant, whom they suspected of possible criminal activity.

In the court decision, the judge said it was “highly necessary for the police to install GPS terminals in order to investigate the case and they are not required to seek warrants from a judge (to do so).”

The defense lawyer expressed disappointment at the court’s decision, noting that law enforcement authorities can avoid scrutiny in the absence of a judge’s warrant.

In Nagoya last year, a man filed a damages suit with the Nagoya District Court saying he suffered psychological stress after the Aichi Prefectural Police installed a GPS tracker on his car.

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