The Revised Juvenile Act Passed and Enacted (April 11, 2014)
“The Law to Revise Part of the Juvenile Act” was passed and enacted at the House of Councilors on April 11, 2014, and issued on April 18, 2014. The revised Act will drastically expand the number of juvenile cases to be covered by the publicly-funded attorney attendant system.
Following are the main revised points of the Act:
(i) The first point involves 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. (ii) The second point is, when there is a dispute over delinquent facts, the scope of juvenile cases in which the public prosecutors become involved in juvenile hearing proceedings will be expanded to the same extent as the scope covered by the court-appointed attorney system for suspects. (iii) The third point is toughening of the upper limit of the definite term to be placed on juveniles at criminal trials. The first and second points above are to be enforced from June 18, 2014, and the third will be effective from May 8, 2014.
At the Committees on Judicial Affairs for both the Upper and Lower Houses, a supplementary resolution was added which includes: (i) an operation of the system for cases in which public prosecutors become involved and sentencing for juveniles should be appropriately carried out in accordance with the principle of the Juvenile Act; and (ii) it should publicize as widely as possible that when appointing publicly-funded attorney attendants, those who understand the characteristics of juvenile hearing proceedings should be appointed.
The JFBA issued a president’s statement on April 11, 2014 on the same day as the law was enacted, highly evaluating the point that the revisions made cover more than 80 percent of cases for juveniles detained, and stating that “the enactment of the revised law was a significant step forward from the point of view of the state confirming the necessity and importance of guaranteeing the rights of juveniles.” In the statement, the JFBA also requested: (i) courts, when deciding whether or not public prosecutors should be involved in a particular juvenile case, make judgments in a prudent manner; (ii) public prosecutors who will be involved in the juvenile proceedings sufficiently understand and consider the characteristics of juveniles; and (iii) courts respect the principle of sound development of juveniles and fully take into consideration the recovery for juveniles when sentencing juveniles.
Towards the scheduled enforcement of the law in June, (i) bar associations across the nation should check the preparedness of their members regarding the enforcement of the law, and also (ii) a discussion should be made with family courts and district offices of the Japan Legal Support Center in reference to (a) the flow of procedures for the appointment of publicly-funded attorney attendants, and (b) the relations, etc. with the duty attorney attendant system; and (iii) it should publicize the revisions to bar associations’ members further. Moreover, in order to increase the rate of appointed publicly-funded attorney attendants under the discretionary appointed system, efforts to maintain and improve the quality of attorney attendants’ activities should be made, including further enhancement of training programs for attorney attendants.