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    More quick news about Japanese youth crime

    Given my skepticism about the CHILD CRIME WASHES OVER JAPAN LIKE TIDAL WAVE! motif on its upcycle in the media, it’s only fair to point out this story:

    Under current law, three courses of action can be taken against juvenile delinquents: They can be sent to a reformatory, placed in less restrictive “protective institutions,” or based at home and required to meet regularly with government-appointed supervisors.

    However, at the moment, only those 14 or older can be sent to a reformatory.

    The planned revisions would abolish the age restriction, opening the reformatory door to virtually any minor.

    The revisions would also expand the scope of police powers in investigating minors under the age of 14.

    Under current Juvenile Law, police are not permitted to:

    *Seize evidence;

    *Search for evidence;

    *Inspect the sites of the incidents; or

    *Request the opinions of experts regarding possible evidence.

    Because of these restrictions, police are often hamstrung in their efforts to make a detailed analysis of alleged criminal acts.

    The revisions are designed to sweep away these restrictions, allowing police to deal with cases more quickly and effectively.

    The Asahi article doesn’t say that there’s been any pressure, from the public or from the Diet, on the Ministry of Justice to toughen things up. That makes it hard to assess how much effect the recent high-profile crimes may have had on the proposed new policy. It’s possible that the Ministry of Justice has been reviewing these things for years and is only now ready to submit changes to the Diet for passage, or that the review of search-and-seizure and sentencing laws spurred by the War on Terrorism has broadened to include all categories of offenders.

    It’s interesting that police powers are so delimited in the case of juvenile offenders. (I do realize, BTW, that sentencing guidelines affect judicial powers, not police powers, but I’m not really all that surprised about the way the institutional system is set up.) The Japanese police are famous for their liberal use of pressure tactics on suspects and, naturally and not unrelatedly, a confession rate that’s about as high as the purity of Ivory soap. I suppose minors under 14 are treated differently, or at least the law is different.

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