« 原発政策 「稼働ゼロ」の副作用も語れ | トップページ | 憲法改正 「3分の2」要件緩和を糸口に »

2012年12月15日 (土)

尼崎連続変死 角田被告自殺は警察の失態だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 15, 2012)
Major error by police enabled Sumida's suicide
尼崎連続変死 角田被告自殺は警察の失態だ(12月14日付・読売社説)

With the death of Miyoko Sumida, it has become far more difficult to determine the truth behind an extremely abnormal case in the history of crime in this country. She was the central figure in the case. This was a gross blunder by the police.

Sumida, who was rearrested on suspicion of murder and other charges related to bodies found in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, and elsewhere, died in a detention cell in the Hyogo Prefectural Police Headquarters. The police are treating her death as a suicide.

Sumida was suspected to have been the leader of a group that infiltrated the homes of families who had become relatives of Sumida through marriage and adoption. She then allegedly forced these families to obey her orders and extorted money from them. In a series of similar incidents, five families were split apart and six bodies have been found so far.


Warning signs of suicide

As what Sumida might have said was expected to reveal important clues in unraveling what happened in the so-called Amagasaki case, her death will have an immeasurable negative effect on the investigation. It is only natural for one of victims of the crimes to angrily demand, "What in the world were the police doing?"

Two months ago, Sumida reportedly "consulted" a police officer in charge of her detention about the possibility of suicide, saying such things as: "I don't want to live. How can I die?" The day before her death, she reportedly said some things that could have been seen as a last will to a lawyer who came to interview her.

Due to these circumstances, the prefectural police designated her as a "person requiring special attention," which means her behavior had to be checked closely and recorded. According to the National Police Agency's notification, such people should, in principle, be monitored visually around the clock in a one-person cell.

However, the prefectural police violated these stipulations by placing Sumida in a three-person cell. Although the number of times the cell was inspected per hour was increased, some time slots received insufficient monitoring. There appears to be no doubt that there were lapses by the prefectural police.

Sumida was found dead with a long-sleeved T-shirt wound around her neck. A police officer on checking duty noticed that Sumida appeared not to be breathing and called her superior. It took 11 minutes to unlock the cell from the time the first officer noticed Sumida's abnormal condition.

The delay was to prevent the two other inmates from escaping, according to the police, but the speed of the response is still questionable.


Thorough verification needed

Initially the prefectural police insisted it had made no mistakes. However, it later admitted some inappropriate action had been taken. "We can't say there were no mistakes," one official said.

Why were the police unable to prevent Sumida from committing suicide? The prefectural police's monitoring system needs to be thoroughly reexamined.

According to the NPA, several suicides occur in police detention cells each year. Belts and neckties, which can be used for suicides, are not allowed to be brought into detention cells, but cases of hanging using other pieces of clothing are said to be harder to prevent.

In 2007 a defendant suspected of murdering a housewife in Sakura, Tochigi Prefecture, hanged himself in a visiting room for people held in detention at a police station.

We encourage all the nation's police departments to make a concerted effort to prevent similar cases from occurring, and to learn from the mistakes of the Hyogo police. For starters, the monitoring system at police detention cells needs to be thoroughly reexamined.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 14, 2012)
(2012年12月14日01時31分  読売新聞)


« 原発政策 「稼働ゼロ」の副作用も語れ | トップページ | 憲法改正 「3分の2」要件緩和を糸口に »





« 原発政策 「稼働ゼロ」の副作用も語れ | トップページ | 憲法改正 「3分の2」要件緩和を糸口に »