A news magazine has defied a ban on identifying minors in criminal cases by naming a 19-year-old student who allegedly bludgeoned an elderly woman to death.
Tokyo-based weekly Shukan Shincho on Thursday ran an in-depth article about the Nagoya University student, urging a national debate on the reporting of juvenile crime.
Headlined “Evil nurtured within the heart of the Nagoya University female student; the resume of a 19-year-old killer of an elderly woman,” the four-page article named the suspect, printed two photographs of her and quoted people who had known her in childhood.
Article 61 of the juvenile law bans the reporting of information or images that enable the identification of alleged or convicted criminals who are still in their teens or younger, including name, occupation and appearance.
In a statement on Thursday, Shukan Shincho said it had decided to provide the details “in consideration of various factors, including the severity of this incident and its impact, as well as the age of the assailant.” The restriction ceases to apply once juveniles reach 20, the age of adulthood.
The magazine cited a judgment by the Osaka High Court in February 2000 that ruled that running a minor’s name is “not illegal” in serious cases that draw substantial public attention.
However, some analysts say the magazine clearly broke the law. Naming the alleged culprit and printing her image is an “obvious violation of Article 61,” said lawyer Takehisa Hamada, who specializes in juvenile law.
He said the magazine was trying to justify its actions on the implied assertion that a girl of 19 will not change her ways, whereas a younger child may. This, Hamada said, is “unacceptable.”
The magazine chose to run two images of the girl, one in a high school uniform and one showing her in a jacket typically worn by male cheerleaders at sports events. Both clearly showed her face from the front.
It reported that in childhood she had shown “outrageous” psychotic tendencies, quoting the father of a childhood friend as saying the girl used to carry around a pair of scissors while in junior high school to “stab someone if attacked.” It also quoted a resident as saying the bodies of dead cats were regularly found around her house.
The student was arrested on Jan. 27 on suspicion of killing 77-year-old Tomoko Mori, a member of a religious group who had tried to recruit her.