As a citizen of the United Kingdom, the source of the Magna Carta and much of “Western” jurisprudence, I continue to be concerned about justice in Japan and alarmed at the abnormally high conviction rate of 99 percent. This rate has prevailed for many years and has often been lauded, not only by those working in the “system” but also by the people and the mass media.
Like many foreigners and Japanese, I had hoped that with the long-awaited start of the “cleanup” of corrupt prosecution offices and the introduction of lay judges, things would improve, and as a consequence, we would see a lower conviction rate.
Why is it that the U.K. conviction rate in courts higher than the magistrate level remains dramatically lower than in Japan? The simple answer is the jury system.
I fail to understand why Japan took only half measures toward judicial reform in appointing lay judges? Why not a jury of “12 good men and true”? Is Japan frightened of a lower conviction rate? True, a good defense can sometimes fool a jury into an acquittal, but surely it is better to let one guilty person go free than to wrongly convict one innocent, even to his death!
Japan is, despite its long history and superb technology, still a developing country. I hope and expect that all facets of the judicial system will continue to develop and ultimately reach the sunny uplands of justice for all.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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