裁判員制度 1年間の検証を改善に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 24, 2010)
Improve lay judge system by examining past trials
裁判員制度 1年間の検証を改善に生かせ(5月23日付・読売社説)

One year has passed since the law governing the lay judge system came into effect. Lay judge trials have not faced major troubles so far.

However, some problems have begun to emerge. It is essential to solve these problems by closely examining past lay judge trials.

According to the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, verdicts have been handed down to 530 defendants since the law took effect on May 21 last year. Six citizen judges are chosen per case, meaning more than 3,000 people have served as lay judges nationwide.

In many cases, trials ended after three to four days. However, one trial for which the Kyoto District Court handed down a ruling on Thursday lasted nine days, which appeared to be the longest lay judge trial so far. This is because quite a bit of time was spent to hear trial testimony, including that of an expert witness who performed a psychiatric examination of a defendant charged with injury resulting in death.

There likely will be even more prolonged trials in the future, in cases where the application of capital punishment, for example, becomes a major contention.

It is vital, therefore, that judges as well as prosecutors and lawyers take heed to ensure efficient trial proceedings and fully examine cases, while giving consideration to lay judges to ensure that excessive burdens are not placed on them.


Sex crime trials major issue

A major issue that has surfaced in the past year was how to conduct trials for sex crimes, which accounted for about 20 percent of lay judge trials.

In April, the Oita prefectural police arrested a man who allegedly raped and injured a woman on her way home, but sent him to prosecutors only on suspicion of rape instead of rape resulting in bodily injury, which is not subject to a lay judge trial.

The police did so because, they said, the victim did not want the incident to be known to lay judges or the case to be handled by a lay judge trial.

Yet in the end, the Oita District Public Prosecutors Office indicted the man for rape resulting in bodily injury, and he faced a lay judge trial.

Considering the fact that the woman was injured, the prosecutors' response to this case was appropriate from the viewpoint of fair punishment. But due consideration should be given to protect the victim's privacy during court hearings.


Need for privacy, speedy trials

At present, courts introduce measures, including a video link system by which victims can testify from a separate room without giving their names. It might be necessary to have repeated discussions about whether these measures are sufficient to protect victims' privacy.

There is concern that more and more victims might cry themselves to sleep without filing criminal charges, as they shy away from lay judge trials.

In addition, some people point out the problem of too much time elapsing as a case proceeds from indictment to trial.

The law governing the lay judge system stipulates the system should be reviewed, if necessary, in 2012 or later.

We hope that legal circles will strive to improve the lay judge system in the light of opinions and experiences of those people who have served as lay judges.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 23, 2010)
(2010年5月23日01時18分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2010-05-24 08:24 | 英字新聞

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