TOKYO — The Japanese government is planning to introduce the right to plea bargain on June 1 by putting into effect a revised law on criminal proceedings, government sources said Wednesday.
While the system is expected to help tackle organized crime, such as that related to drugs, lawyers and legal scholars have warned that it could trigger false statements leading to charges against innocent people.
Under plea bargaining, prosecutors may agree not to indict or to seek prosecution for less serious charges if the suspect or defendant gives evidence or depositions against accomplices in drug, gun, fraud, embezzlement, bribery and certain other cases. Murder and robbery cases will not be covered by the system.
The law permits plea bargaining only if a suspect or defendant agrees with prosecutors and the defense lawyer’s consent is given. If depositions are found to be false, those giving them will face up to five years in prison.
After final talks with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will set a date for the legislation’s entry into force.
The revised law, which was enacted in May 2016 and promulgated the following month, is supposed to take effect within two years of its promulgation.
The legal revision was part of an overhaul in Japan’s criminal proceedings. Its stipulation on obliging police and prosecutors to record interrogations of suspects in certain serious cases subject to lay judge trials is supposed to come into effect within three years of the promulgation.
Although the number of cases subject to audiovisual recording to improve the transparency of investigations is limited to around 3 percent of total offenses, investigators claimed the recording will make it hard for them to obtain statements of suspects and sought the introduction of plea bargaining as an alternative method to collect evidence.