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Statement Concerning Results of Report on Interrogations Conducted by the Police


On October 20, 2011, the National Police Agency announced its investigational research results entitled, “Results of the Report on Interrogations Conducted at Police Stations.” The report describes research results on interrogations of certain serious crimes handled by special task force of prefectural police headquarters or their branches (“task force cases”) during the year 2010 as well as interrogations of general cases as of February 2011, namely, the number of days each investigation took, the number of times, places, and hours taken for interrogations, and when confessions were made, the key factors for such confessions and the rate of confessions.


According to the research results, approximately 70 percent of police officers who have conducted interrogations of task force cases stated that they were able to obtain confession from suspects because they were able to gain the trust of such suspects.  However, the “key factors which have brought about confessions” stated in these research results indicate nothing more than the subjective opinions of the investigators and their evaluations of such situations.  In many cases featuring miscarriages of justice, investigators also insisted that they were able to obtain confessions from suspects based on the trust they had established with such suspect, and because of this relationship of trust, the suspects may have felt remorse and regretted what they had done, and made a confession.  However, in reality, it has often been discovered after the fact that the interrogations actually conducted by investigators were completely different to the descriptions provided by investigators as to such interrogations.  These differences should not be overlooked.


Further, the research results indicate that the total number of hours taken for interrogations of task force cases averaged 65 hours and 31 minutes per case, with the longest number of hours for an interrogation process being 114 hours and 41 minutes.  However, there was no mention in the research results as to why it took so long to finish such interrogations and there is no section analyzing whether it is worthwhile to spend such a large amount of time on such interrogations.  It has frequently been the case that suspects and witnesses have stated that they reluctantly accepted the stories imposed by investigators, and signed interrogation records made after interrogations which lasted for such extended periods of time and which took place on a number of occasions.  The research should include analysis as to why it is necessary to conduct such lengthy interrogations. Further, it should also be analyzed as to how the interrogations has taken such a long time is connected to the obtaining of confessions.


Now is the time to conduct a trial run of an audio/visual recording of the entire process of interrogations to check, verify and analyze actual conversations between suspects and investigators which have resulted in a confession of guilt or admission of facts which may be detrimental to the suspects.  The results of this trial run should be verified objectively by third parties, including lawyers and experts in the area of suspect psychology etc., to examine the extent of the effects and influence on suspects of carrying out an audio/visual recording of the interrogation process, and also to examine the interrogation methods utilized.


At the public prosecutors’ office, a trial run of audio/video recording of the entire process of interrogations has already been launched, at least for the so-called special investigation cases, where certain cases are handed to the special investigations unit of Tokyo or Osaka district public prosecutors' office, and also for cases in which suspects have communication problems due to intellectual disabilities.  In addition, the trend is for an extension of the scope of cases dealt with by the lay-judge system to which audio/video recording of interrogations will be applied.


Taking into consideration all of the above, the JFBA strongly seeks the achievement of the following:


1)  The police must immediately start the audio/video recording of the entire process of interrogations for cases involving suspects with communication problems due to intellectual disabilities, at a minimum, and


2)The scope of trial run of such recording should be extended to other types of cases as broadly as possible.


October 24, 2011
Kenji Utsunomiya
Japan Federation of Bar Associations

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