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Panel seeks law revision to have more juveniles face criminal charges

  • September 9, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 11:50 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Sept. 9 (Jiji Press)–A Japanese government panel Wednesday proposed lowering legal hurdles to put more 18- and 19-year-old criminal suspects on trial like adults.


Under the juvenile law, criminal cases involving minors, defined by the law as people younger than 20 years old, should be handled by family courts. But the courts can refer them to prosecutors when they are believed to have committed crimes punishable by death penalty or imprisonment. In addition, minors who are aged 16 and older and suspected of committing murder or intentionally causing injuries resulting in death will be sent to prosecutors by the courts.


In its draft recommendations on the revision of the law, the subdivision of the Legislative Council, which advises the justice minister, called for prosecuting 18- and 19-year-olds if their suspected offenses are punishable by imprisonment of at least one year. Those crimes include robberies and rape.


The panel also proposed allowing the names and face photos of suspected offenders aged 18 or 19 to be disclosed if they are indicted, noting that they are to go on criminal trials, which are generally open to the public.


Among other recommendations is that family courts not conduct hearings or make decisions on the likelihood of juveniles with troubled family backgrounds and bad behavior committing crimes in the future as far as 18- and 19-year-olds are concerned.


Meanwhile, the panel refrained from mentioning whether it agrees or disagrees with lowering the maximum age subject to protection under the law to 17, with the age of adulthood set to go down to 18 from 20 in April 2022 under the revised Civil Code. People aged 18 to 19 “should be treated differently from those under 18, as well as those aged 20 and older,” it said.


The Justice Ministry will start writing an amendment bill to the law after receiving the final proposal from the council.

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