Tokyo, Jan. 25 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government is set to give up the submission during the ongoing regular session of the Diet, the country’s parliament, of a juvenile law amendment aimed at lowering the age of people covered by the legislation to under 18 from under 20 at present, informed sources have said.
This is because members of the Legislative Council, which advises the justice minister, remain divided over the matter, the sources said.
The council was asked in February 2017 to study the advisability of lowering the coverage age of the law, in line with changes in the voting age and the adult age. The voting age has already been lowered to 18 from 20 under the public offices election law, while the adult age will be cut to 18 from 20 in April 2022 under the Civil Code.
As for the proposed juvenile law revision, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and others strongly oppose the cut in its coverage age, citing possible adverse effects on the rehabilitation of offenders aged 18 and 19.
Against this background, the secretariat of the Justice Ministry presented two proposals at a meeting of the council’s juvenile law subcommittee last month in a bid to win support from the opponents.
One of the proposals said that whether to indict 18- and 19-year-old offenders in criminal cases equal to those subject to lay judge trials should be decided by public prosecutors, like cases involving adult offenders, and that such young offenders in other cases will be sent to family courts.
The other proposal said that all offenders aged 18 and 19 should be sent to family courts, like at present, while a study should be made on the possibility of expanding the scope of offenders who will be sent to prosecutors from family courts.
These proposals have failed to win consent from the opponents, because the ideas assume the lowering of the juvenile law coverage age.
Kazuo Kitagawa, a senior official of Komeito, the coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told a press conference on Wednesday that it “would likely be impossible” to submit legislation to revise the juvenile law during the current Diet session.
Under the current juvenile law, all criminal offenders aged 14-19 will be sent to family courts in principle, and measures for them, such as giving probation or sending to juvenile prisons or to prosecutors, will be decided later. They will face trial as adult offenders do if they are indicted after being sent to prosecutors.