The Supreme Court apologized Monday to former leprosy patients for allowing lower courts to hold criminal trials involving them outside standard courtrooms over ungrounded fears about the spread of infection, saying such false practices were unlawful and further accelerated discrimination.

In a 60-page report, the top court stated that "discriminatory handling was strongly suspected" for special trials held after 1960, and violated the laws governing court procedures.

It said the Supreme Court granted lower courts permission to hold such trials at sanitariums and other facilities for leprosy patients without fully examining each case.