FUKUOKA – Most courts that hold trials under the lay judge system are trying to enhance the safety of the participants after citizen judges in a gangster’s trial were approached by people associated with the defendant,
Many safety steps have been introduced with the help of court employees, such as driving judges to nearby transit stations and their homes to prevent them from meeting anyone linked with defendants, according to a survey by Kyodo News.
But some courts said they are concerned about their employees’ increased workloads.
The survey, which covered 60 district courts and their branch offices across the nation, was conducted after lay judges involved in the gangster’s trial at the Kokura branch of the Fukuoka District Court, were approached by two acquaintances of the defendant, who was on trial for attempted murder.
The two men were arrested in June on suspicion of intimidating judges, the first such arrests since the lay judge system was introduced in 2009.
The Supreme Court in early July ordered courts nationwide to take steps to secure the safety of citizen judges in response to the Fukuoka incident.
In the survey, 57 of the 60 courts said they have introduced enhanced safety steps or are considering measures since the incident in Fukuoka.
As newly introduced safety measures, 54 courts said in the survey, which allowed multiple answers, that they have posted signs inside the court buildings saying making contact with lay judges is forbidden, and 33 courts said they started issuing verbal warnings to courtroom attendees.
Thirty-six courts said they had taken steps before the Fukuoka incident, such as providing lay judges with bathrooms and parking spaces separate from those for the public, and five courts said they took similar steps after the incident.
After the Fukuoka case, 16 courts said they began driving lay judges to nearby stations or other locations and nine said they have court staff accompany lay judges inside court buildings.
“There are plenty of things we can do, but it is hard to decide how far we should go in consideration of increased burdens on court employees,” one court official said.