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2012年8月10日 (金)

発達障害判決 厳罰より支援の拡充が大切だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 10, 2012)
Court misjudged nature of developmental disorders
発達障害判決 厳罰より支援の拡充が大切だ(8月9日付・読売社説)

A recent ruling handed down by the Osaka District Court has made us wonder how well it understood the concept of developmental disorders in choosing such a severe punishment.

At a trial involving both lay and professional judges, a man in his 40s was sentenced to 20 years in prison for stabbing his elder sister to death--a penalty that exceeded the 16 years demanded by prosecutors.

The court acknowledged that the defendant suffered Asperger's syndrome, a kind of developmental disorder, and handed down the maximum definite prison term for a murder charge.

"It is feared that the defendant would commit a crime again because society does not have institutions to deal with the disorder properly," the court said as one of the reasons for the sentence.

"It is beneficial for society to place him in prison for the longest allowable period for the sake of maintaining social order," it added.

The defendant began confining himself to his home when he was a fifth-year primary school student. He believed his social withdrawal was caused by his sister and built up resentment against her, according to the ruling.

It is inexcusable that he stabbed to death his sister, who took care of him.


Ruling too simplistic

However, it is too simplistic for the district court to think that it should impose a heavy penalty on the defendant and place him in prison for an extended period just because of a disorder he suffers. The ruling could encourage prejudice against people with developmental disorders.

The defendant's disorder was discovered through a psychiatric examination conducted by prosecutors following the incident.

People with Asperger's syndrome, believed to be caused by a congenital disorder in the brain, often find it difficult to develop interpersonal relationships. They also tend to have difficulty demonstrating empathy and expressing their own feelings. However, these characteristics are not directly linked to antisocial behavior.

The ruling has made us doubt whether the professional judges involved in the trial took appropriate steps so the lay judges could properly understand what Asperger's syndrome is.

The ruling's conclusion that the defendant had not shown deep remorse for his act is also questionable. For people with Asperger's syndrome, it is difficult to express their profound remorse even if they do feel responsible for what they did. We wonder if the court made such a conclusion after fully examining the syndrome's characteristics.


Contrary to social efforts

It is also puzzling that the ruling recognized that society has yet to properly deal with those with developmental disorders.

Since 2005, when a law that aims to provide support for people suffering from these disorders was put into effect, support centers have opened nationwide to offer counseling. Support centers of another type have also been set up to provide assistance, such as job placement, to people with these disorders who have been released from prison to help them keep from reoffending.

The ruling could discourage such efforts to help them.

It is only natural that support groups for people with developmental disorders have criticized the ruling as being based on a misinterpretation of the facts and a lack of understanding of such disorders.

To rehabilitate people with developmental disorders who committed crimes, it is necessary for facilities related to welfare, medical services, education and labor to cooperate much more with each other to provide such offenders with better assistance in such areas as housing and jobs.

We believe that prisons also should examine providing rehabilitation programs tailored for inmates with developmental disorders.

It is crucial for society to better understand developmental disorders and offer holistic support to those who suffer from them, rather than imposing severe punishments on them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 9, 2012)
(2012年8月9日01時28分  読売新聞)


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