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2014年7月13日 (日)

刑事司法改革 国民の信頼を取り戻す制度に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Investigators should use new methods to regain public trust
刑事司法改革 国民の信頼を取り戻す制度に

The proposals compiled by a Legislative Council committee present investigative authorities with an opportunity to pick up steam in their efforts to win back some of the public trust they lost through the recent spate of scandals involving public prosecutors.

The government council’s special committee was tasked with examining reforms of the criminal justice system, and has compiled a set of proposals for the justice minister, one of which would require investigative authorities to record the entire interrogation process, in certain cases.

The Justice Ministry plans to submit relevant bills to the ordinary Diet session next year.

The proposals are intended to prevent false accusations through the adoption of video recordings of interrogations and to enhance investigative capabilities by expanding the scope of cases subject to wiretapping as well as by introducing a system for plea bargaining.

The most contentious issue has been designating which categories of crimes are to be subject to mandatory recording of interrogations. Those cases have narrowed down to crimes tried by lay judges and those subject to independent investigations by prosecutors’ offices.

Recording would be required in only about 3 percent of criminal cases. In many such cases, however, the credibility and voluntariness of confessions made during interrogations wind up being contested in public trials.

Recording interactions between investigators and suspects during questioning is of great significance, in that it will enable an after-the-fact examination of the case to determine whether there was an induced confession or compelled testimony.

Prosecutors have been introducing recorded interrogations through a process of trial and error in cases handled by lay judges. From October onward, prosecutors will begin voluntary interrogation recording in cases where written statements based on such questioning appears likely to become a focal issue at trial, irrespective of the category of crime.

Becoming more common

Prosecutors have shifted to a more proactive stance on video recording as the courts have moved toward stricter appraisals of the admissibility as evidence of such statements compiled without recording.

The proposals also call for reviews of cases subject to recording when deemed necessary. Lawmakers should examine how police and prosecutors’ offices are carrying out recorded interrogations and should consider possible impacts of recordings on investigations before any conclusions are made regarding a potential expansion in the scope of cases subject to recording.

Another facet of the proposals is the addition of nine new categories of crimes to the list of investigations subject to wiretapping of phone and e-mail communications.

The range of wiretapping targets has conventionally been limited to four categories of crimes, with a very limited number of actual cases, including those involving drugs or firearms.

Also planned for introduction is a plea bargaining system, which would permit prosecutors to refrain from indicting a suspect in return for his or her cooperation, such as providing information on crimes committed by an accomplice.

It is hoped that the expansion and improvement of these investigative methods will help authorities unravel increasingly sophisticated crimes. Abuse of wiretapping, however, could infringe on people’s privacy. There is also the risk of a deceptive statement obtained through the plea bargaining system leading to false accusations against people who have nothing to do with the crime.

Both police and prosecutors are required to apply the proposed investigative methods in a circumspect and discreet manner.

The proposals also contain a new rule requiring prosecutors to reveal to the defense counsel a list of the evidence they hold prior to a public trial.

Evidence collected with the use of taxpayer money is not to be monopolized by prosecutors, but is rather public property which should be utilized to reveal the truth of cases being investigated. Fair trials must be ensured by securing the right to a fair defense for the accused person.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 10, 2014)


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