JFBA Brief Note - the Supreme Public Prosecutors' Office Enacts Practice Guidelines for Public Prosecutors
Basic Principles for Public Prosecutors Announced
The Supreme Public Prosecutors' Office (“SPPO”) announced the basic principles for public prosecutors, entitled, the “principles for public prosecutors” on September 30, 2011. The principles were established following the recommendations announced at the meeting on “how duties of prosecutors should be performed” on March 31, 2011. These principles are the first guidelines to have been issued by the SPPO defining the practices of public prosecutors. The principles in their entirety can be confirmed on the SPPO website.
Prosecutors Should Not Aim Only to Achieve Convictions
The principles state that “Prosecutors should not always solely aim to pursue a guilty verdict itself,” and “should not have an attitude whereby the more serious the punishment/sentence achieved, the more successful the prosecution has been.” Further, it is stipulated that “Prosecutors should strive to do their utmost in using their intellectual ability to the fullest extent possible to find out the truth in the cases they are tackling in order to avoid a situation where an innocent person is found guilty and in order to avoid the situation where the real perpetrator escapes punishment.” As described above, prosecutors shall be obliged to find out the truth behind their cases based upon the evidence, achieve the most adequate form of punishment and prevent the occurrence of miscarriages of justice.
Principles for Disclosure of Evidence are Insufficient
Certain aspects of the principles should be applauded; however, there are certain points that need to be improved. For instance, the principles neither have any clear reference to disclosure of the evidence possessed by prosecutors nor sufficiently respect the right to defense of the suspect/accused. In addition, the principles lack specific stipulations in relation to such issues as the following:
- Emphasis on objective evidence without heavy reliance on records of confession
- Awareness of the fact that the detaining of suspects is a serious restriction of human rights
- Refraining from detaining suspects as a method of obtaining confessions
- Taking corrective measures or denouncing the same when awareness is raised of an illegal or unjustified investigation
Enabling Defense Councils to Protest Against Public Prosecutors in Accordance with the Principles
Though there is a plenty of room for improvement, the establishment of the principles has enabled defense councils to protest against public prosecutors when such prosecutors have committed an act in violation of such principles.
Additionally, if anyone who has concrete information regarding the fact that a public prosecutor or a public prosecutor’s assistant officer has committed an illegal or inappropriate act, or an act equivalent to such illegal or inappropriate acts, it has now become possible for such person to provide information to a supervisory and guidance section of the SPPO, which was set up on July 8, 2011. (The top page of the SPPO website shows the link to the contact point for such section).
Soliciting Continued Support for the JFBA’s Activities
The JFBA will continue to closely monitor how the operation of the principles is put into practice and will also suggest methods for improvement and strive to put forward its utmost efforts to realize a criminal justice system which avoids the occurrence of miscarriages of justice. We would like to solicit the continued support of the members in providing us with relevant information and the like.