Statement concerning the “Bill to Amend the Code of Criminal Procedure, etc.” which includes Mandatory Transparency in Interrogations, etc.
The government submitted a bill to the Diet on March 13, 2015, to revise the Code of Criminal Procedure, and other Acts, and among other things, such bill: (i) mandates the audio/video recording of the entire process of interrogations of suspects, (ii) expands the court-appointed attorney system to all cases involving detained suspects; (iii) expands the system for disclosure of evidence including the provision of lists of evidence; (iv) clarifies the matters that should be taken into consideration when the court makes judgments on discretionary bail relating to physical detention; and (v) establishes protective measures for victims of crime and witnesses.
Following the “Conference Concerning the Concept of Public Prosecutors,” the bill was created through a series of discussions held over a period of approximately three years at the “Special Subcommittee on the Criminal Justice System for a New Era” of the Legislative Council, which was established as an advisory panel reporting to the Minister of Justice, and in which expert members participated, seeking to establish a criminal justice system which avoided the occurrences of false charges.
The JFBA positively evaluates the fact that further steps have been taken on the road to reform and also expresses its strong hope that the bill to revise the Code will pass in a timely manner.
While the audio/video recording of interrogations of suspects is limited to cases which are to be tried by lay judges as well as cases in which public prosecutors conduct their own investigations, the actual use of audio/video recording of interrogations by the Public Prosecutors’ Office has certainly been increasing. The JFBA will seek to achieve transparent interrogations for every single case when the system is scheduled to be reviewed in three years’ time, through the rigorous operations conducted by the courts and through accumulating defense practice activities by defense counsels.
With regard to wiretapping communications, since this is a type of investigation method that inherently involves violating the privacy of communications and personal privacy, we cannot help but express our strong concern over possible human rights violations and abuses of the system. The JFBA will strictly monitor whether the complementary requirements and the organizational nature of the system are appropriately and rigidly construed and operated and, as may be necessary, will examine whether to propose alternative systems, such as establishing an independent third-party monitoring institution.
With reference to the so-called “plea-bargaining” system, since the risk of false statements has been pointed out, very careful consideration should be given as to judging the credibility of the statements made by the people involved. The JFBA will give extra care when dealing with the new system in order to avoid such system causing any misjudgments or miscarriages of justice.
Concerning various issues such as: (i) the further expansion of the system for disclosing evidence; (ii) enhancement of the system for disclosing evidence in the proceedings for retrial requests; (iii) improvement of the detention and bail system; and (iv) the provision of a guarantee to grant suspects an opportunity to receive legal advice before undergoing an interrogation, the JFBA will continue to address these issues, striving to bring about the realization of structural reform in such areas.
In order to establish a criminal justice system which avoids the occurrences of false charges, it is essential that all attorneys conduct their defense practice activities under the new system in accordance with its principles. We here at the JFBA are determined to commit ourselves to making an all-out effort to further proceeding with the reform process together with the public and relevant parties, as well as all attorneys and bar associations.
March 18, 2015
Japan Federation of Bar Associations