Statement Concerning the Essential Features of the Revision of the Juvenile Act Outlining the Expansion of the Scope of the Publicly-Funded Attorney Attendant System
The Sub-Council on the Juvenile Act within the Legislative Council of the Ministry of Justice compiled its opinion today, agreeing to the essential features of the revision of the Juvenile Act.
Under the current Juvenile Act, the scope of the juvenile cases to which a publicly-funded attorney attendant is to be provided is limited to certain serious crimes. The main contents of the essential features of the revision are aimed at enhancing the scope of the public attendant system for juvenile cases to the same extent as the scope of the court-appointed attorneys system for suspects.
In juvenile hearing proceedings, the role of attorneys is extremely important in ensuring appropriate findings of delinquency and decisions on the necessity of corrective measures, as well as attempting to prevent the recurrence of crimes by supporting the rehabilitation of the juveniles involved. In order to guarantee the rights of juveniles to receive the help of attorney attendants, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (the “JFBA”) has been advocating that attorney attendants should be appointed with public funding under such system, at least for all juveniles who are detained in juvenile detention centers. Aiming to realize such system, the JFBA has been conducting a duty attorney attendant system under which a duty attorney attendant makes visits to the juveniles in question, free of charge, as well as the juvenile cases attendant support system which covers the attorney’s fees for juveniles with limited financial means.
The essential features of the revision involve the expansion of the scope of juvenile cases covered by the publicly-funded attorney attendant system to the same extent as the scope covered by the court-appointed attorney system for suspects, which includes suspects facing servitude or imprisonment for a maximum of over three years. Even though the expansion of the system will not cover all the cases in which juveniles are detained, approximately 80% of such cases will be covered, which can be evaluated as a big step forward towards a guarantee of the rights of juveniles.
On the other hand, the essential features also state that the scope of cases in which public prosecutors can be involved is to be extended to the same extent as the scope of cases to be provided court-appointed attorneys. The JFBA has consistently been pointing out that if public prosecutors become involved in juvenile hearing proceedings which do not apply the principle of elimination of preconceptions and the hearsay rule, this may place juveniles in a position which is even more disadvantageous than that facing adults, and there is a risk that it may become even more difficult to discover the truth in such cases. We firmly believe that efforts should be made to alleviate and eventually eliminate such concerns. In order to do so, when courts decide whether or not public prosecutors should be involved in a particular juvenile case, the courts should carefully examine the requirements and necessities involved, and make such judgment prudently. In addition, in the case where public prosecutors need to become involved in juvenile hearing proceedings, public prosecutors should give due consideration so as not to compromise the fundamental principles of the Juvenile Act, which aims to achieve the sound development of juveniles as well as to allow juveniles to tell the truth in such cases. The JFBA will continue to seek an appropriate means of operating the system in cases in which public prosecutors become involved.
Taking all of the above-mentioned matters into consideration, it is the sincere hope of the JFBA that the essential features will be swiftly drafted into law, and that such bill will be approved by the Diet and enacted, and that the revision of the Juvenile Act will be realized.
The JFBA is fully determined to promote its activities to streamline the system for attorney attendants and to ensure and improve the quality of attorney attendants activities, so that such attorney attendants can further contribute their support in guaranteeing the rights of and recovery for juveniles, even under the expanded publicly-funded attorney attendant system. Furthermore, the JFBA is firmly resolved to continue its activities aiming to realize a publicly-funded attorney attendant system which will fully cover all juveniles who are detained.
January 28, 2013
Japan Federation of Bar Associations