A study panel at the Justice Ministry on Aug. 8 issued a report which said that electronic recording of interrogation of suspects by investigators is effective in objectively recording the interrogation situation, deterring inappropriate interrogation and preventing false charges.

Acting on Justice Minister Satsuki Eda’s instruction the next day, Prosecutor General Haruo Kasama ordered the nation’s public prosecutors offices to electronically record interrogation in all the types of criminal cases to be tried by lay judges. But this is not recording of the entire process of interrogation but partial recording.

So far, in such cases, recording has been done when suspects confessed to charges. From now on, a recording will also be made when suspects refuse to confess to charges. When suspects do not want recording, it will not be done. Importantly the report does not necessarily call for electronically recording the entire process of interrogation. The report includes hints of public prosecutors’ resistance to total recording. It includes results of a survey of 1,042 public prosecutors. While 77 percent said that recording will help ensure proper investigation and 85 percent said that recording will make it easy to prove the voluntary nature of confessions, 91 percent said that recording may make it difficult to gain true confessions.

The basic attitude and thinking of public prosecutors were clearly shown when they were asked whether they support electronic recording of the entire process of interrogation — 86 percent were reluctant about introduction of total recording and 58 percent even opposed partial recording. Public prosecutors’ opinions boil down to this: they might accept partial recording in order to prevent false charges but do not want to go beyond that.

Touching on the situation abroad, the report says that plea bargaining, sting operations and wiretapping are widely employed. The prosecution’s intention is clear: they cannot accept total recording without the introduction of these procedures. Their introduction should not be the condition for institutionalizing of total recording of the interrogation process, which is necessary to prevent false charges.

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