« 与党安保協議 個別的自衛権では限界がある | トップページ | 今日のイチオシDreamNews »

2014年5月22日 (木)

裁判員制度5年 精神的負担をどう軽減するか

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:58 pm, May 21, 2014
Lay judges deserve assistance with psychological, professional burdens
裁判員制度5年 精神的負担をどう軽減するか

Wednesday marked exactly five years since the introduction of Japan’s lay judge system.

More than 49,000 lay judges and supplementary lay judges have sat on the bench over these five years, issuing decisions in cases involving about 6,400 defendants.

By and large, the system has been smoothly managed and has served its purpose of reflecting the will of the common people in criminal trials. There has been, so far, no major confusion in the proceedings of the lay judge trials.

We hope that professional judges, prosecutors and defense counsel will work to ensure the system is more firmly established among the public, a task that demands thorough measures to ensure each hearing is conducted in an easy-to-understand manner. This may be made possible by, for example, making better use of witness examinations.

A noticeable evolution in criminal trials since the adoption of the lay judge system has been the greater severity of penalties imposed on the defendants.

The rulings of career judges from before the system was introduced were comparatively lenient. It had been said that judges tended to hand down sentences about 80 percent as severe as what prosecutors called for. However, the lay judge system has produced over 40 cases in which sentencing exceeded the prosecutors’ demands.

The tendency of lay judges to hand down harsher penalties in cases involving sex crimes or child abuse seems to indicate their belief that such despicable crimes should be punished severely.

There have also arisen questions about the degree to which sentencing decisions by lay judges should be respected.  裁判員の量刑判断をどこまで尊重すべきかという問題も浮き彫りになってきている。

The Tokyo High Court has overturned three death sentences handed down by lay judges, instead sentencing the defendants to life imprisonment. Two of those cases involved the killing of a single person, a crime for which few career judges would have turned to the death penalty.

These cases seem to imply that the lay judges who examined the cases decided there was scant possibility that the defendants could be rehabilitated, given the viciousness and brutality of their offenses. This conclusion apparently prompted them to opt for the death penalty.

Lay judges vs precedent

When the cases were brought before the high court, they were reviewed exclusively by career judges. The court apparently decided not to sentence the defendants to death, noting that the death sentence had not been applied in previous cases similar to the three.

Some critics have said that the high court’s stance of seeking to follow precedent would undermine the objective of adopting the lay judge system as a means of reflecting the opinions of the public in criminal trials. However, it should be recognized that if the penalty imposed by the high court on the three cases greatly differed from the severity of the sentences given to similar cases in the past, the fairness of our nation’s judicial system could be put to question. It is important that higher courts should serve as a watchdog responsible for examining the appropriateness of sentences handed down under the lay judge system.

Another major task in improving the system will be to reduce the psychological burdens on lay judges.

Some lay judges were seriously disturbed by grim color photos of bodies they had to examine during trials. Prosecutors should present cases in a manner that would better consider the feelings of lay judges by, for instance, using black-and-white photos and illustrations.

After passing judgment, a considerable number of lay judges have agonized over whether their decisions were correct.

Courts of justice across the nation provide consultation services for lay judges free of charge. In light of the situation, some career judges have sought to contact people who sat as lay judges, looking to see whether they are experiencing psychological hardship. Measures should be taken to provide optimal care for lay judges.

It is also worrying to see that increasing numbers of people are declining to serve as lay judges after being appointed by lottery. Between January and March of this year, fully 66 percent declined. As circumstances stand today, lay judges spend an average of nine days examining a case. Among those who have refused to serve may be a number of people who cite business obligations as a reason for their decision.

Measures must be taken to ensure that people find it easier to serve as lay judges. For example, corporations should be encouraged to grant employees flexible leave so they can participate in lay judge trials. Doing so is essential for the system to take root in society.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 21, 2014)


« 与党安保協議 個別的自衛権では限界がある | トップページ | 今日のイチオシDreamNews »





« 与党安保協議 個別的自衛権では限界がある | トップページ | 今日のイチオシDreamNews »