crime

Prosecutors to record questioning of victims, witnesses

18 Comments

The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office has decided to expand video and sound recording of police interrogations to also include victims and witnesses as well as suspects in crime cases.

Although it has already been in test phase for some time, the expanded recordings will be launched in October. TV Asahi quoted a spokesman for the prosecutors office as saying that recordings of police questioning of both witnesses and victims will help ensure that suspects are properly investigated and prevent wrongful charges.

Video and sound recording was originally launched for testing nearly three years ago when a scandal involving the Osaka prosecutors office rocked the judicial system. Since the implementation of the recording program, the Public Prosecutors Office has announced an exponential increase in results from interrogations in departments across the country.

Furthermore, although getting suspects to testify or confess to their crimes directly under video and audio surveillance may prove difficult, the recorded content from the interrogations will make it easier for judges to substantiate or deny credibility of testimonies made during trial.

In cases where there is a dearth of evidence and the testimony of a suspect can make or break a case, or in cases where improper treatment of a child is suspected but not proven, officers can gather a collection of recorded testimonies which could help shed light on the truth and protect the child's welfare, TV Asahi quoted an official as saying.

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18 Comments
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Great, promising progress in protection of human rights in Japan.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The police doing the interrogation should also be video'd and there should be a continuous recording so no off camera intimidation can take place, no beatings, no coercion, no threats or intimidation while the recording device is turned off.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Yeah, right...

"Excuse me while I just switch this off for a sec..." For suspects to benefit from this, you'd better make sure the person in charge of the recording is an honest fella.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Its important to realise that this is just a change of voluntary guidelines by the public prosecutors office. It is not a change in the law to make it mandatory. So if an interview is not recorded for whatever reason, it doesn't mean that a transcript will be inadmissible even if the defendant disputes its accuracy.

More importantly, it doesn't address the most frequent cause of miscarriages of justice in Japan, which happen because prosecutors are not required to disclose all of their evidence to the defence. Its not illegal for prosecutors to withhold key evidence that they have gathered which exonerates the defendant (such as in the Mainali case).

So for example, a prosecutor might interview an eyewitness who describes a perpetrator who looks completely different than the defendant. The prosecutor will simply choose not to present this evidence at trial and can instead just file it away never to be seen again. They have no obligation to let the defence know that the witness exists and the defence cannot request to look at the entire file of evidence that the prosecution has collected. So whether the prosecutors are now making audio and video recordings rather than typing up transcripts, it will make no difference if none of it ever sees the light of day because it favours the defendant's case.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Get ready for conviction rates to plummet.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

They don't want people to see the rack in the corner...99% convictions? Really that's believable?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Welcome to the 20th Century. For a super-advanced country Japan seems to be so far behind the times in many areas.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

M3M3M3: you seems to know quite well the Japanese prosecution system. So basically and if I understand correctly there is a significant percentage of innocents in jail and quite a big bunch of criminals enjoying a free life.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Its important to realise that this is just a change of voluntary guidelines by the public prosecutors office. It is not a change in the law to make it mandatory. So if an interview is not recorded for whatever reason, it doesn't mean that a transcript will be inadmissible even if the defendant disputes its accuracy.

Well, that would always be true. Even in the States, a police officer's testimony of an interview can hold water even without a backing recording (you can forget about Japan's prosecutors allowing themselves to be restrained more than an American prosecutor).

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Open Minded

So basically and if I understand correctly there is a significant percentage of innocents in jail and quite a big bunch of criminals enjoying a free life.

I think that is probably very true. Also, good point about how some criminals are walking free. The flip side of the 99% conviction rate is that if the suspect denies everything in the interview, the prosecutor might decide to drop the case rather than risk a career damaging loss if they go to trial without a confession.

Here is a good article/book review that gives a realistic overview of how the prosecutorial system works in Japan:

http://www.nthposition.com/thejapanesewayofjustice.php

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"Supreme Public Prosecutors Office has decided to expand video and sound recording of police interrogations to also include victims"

|| Does this mean that victims of rape (who wish to bring charges) will get (must get) video'd by the police describing the who, what, when, where and how of their experience? Harrowing.||

0 ( +0 / -0 )

horizon360Jun. 21, 2014 - 09:31PM JST || Does this mean that victims of rape (who wish to bring charges) will get (must get) video'd by the police describing the who, what, when, where and how of their experience? Harrowing.||

The victims won't care. After what they've been through a video camera in the room while they testify won't phase them.

... however it will stop misogynist J-cops from asking questions like, "Did you enjoy it?" and "Are you sure you weren't asking for it?", etc., secure in the knowledge that they'll be writing up the statement for the victim to sign and there's no proof so they can't be sued.

Think this doesn't happen? A friend of mine was raped a couple of years ago and she was an absolute wreck after making her statement because the police kept her there for 5 hours, and kept on asking her if she was absolutely sure she didn't consent in some way, or signal her consent in some way, or make sounds that she was enjoying it.In the end they managed final statement she signed included some quite ambiguous Japanese that seemed to imply that the sex may or may not have been consensual, and the cop insisted that these were her own words, and showed her his notebook... and after 5 hours she was too exhausted and traumatised to do anything about it, and couldn't even recall the whole interview clearly, apart from a lot of tears and denials that she in any way consented. Unsuprisingly the case was never prosecuted.

So this is definitely a welcome move. As all know from this week's debacle in the Tokyo city council, there's still a lot of misogyny in Japan, and so I think that rape victims will welcome this move.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Get ready for conviction rates to plummet.

What you might be concerned about is the possibility that with this "plummet" in the conviction rate would be a decrease in the deterrent power of law enforcement and a significant rise in crime.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Since the justice system of Japan is still locked, this implementation would help give a light to suspects who were wrongly charged...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The victims won't care. After what they've been through a video camera in the room while they testify won't phase them.

Are you sure? Generally the reliving of the crime is considered to be somewhat ... tough ... on the women and is a significant factor in why some cases go un-reported.

... however it will stop misogynist J-cops from asking questions like, "Did you enjoy it?" and "Are you sure you weren't asking for it?", etc., secure in the knowledge that they'll be writing up the statement for the victim to sign and there's no proof so they can't be sued.

I'm sure it happens. And I'm not so sure it shouldn't happen. Remember that if it goes to court, a defense lawyer is supposed to employ the same tactics.

It is commonly said that Japan's judges are really in bed with the prosecutors, and that the 99% conviction rate is a product of this. If this is so, the only safeguard that prevents the enzai rate from skyrocketing until it reaches a socially unacceptable level (right now, of course there is some outrage and calls for reform every time an enzai is reported in the news, but it clearly hasn't reached the density where it provokes a strong reaction from Japanese as a whole) is a more inquisitorial attitude on the part of the police and prosecutor.

M3M3M3 quotes a review of The Japanese Way of Justice. I actually have that book, and a point it makes is that prosecutors in Japan tend to consider themselves as "fighting for good" much more than American ones. That may partially be naive romanticism, but it also represents that prosecutors kind of realize that they are the real line of defense against enzai. They might still make mistakes or be overly "enthusiastic" from time to time, but at least they are probably less apt to do as suggested in this Duane's Don't Talk to the Police - it is on Youtube.

Do remember that at the moment your friend is giving the testimony, the police don't know the truth. Maybe they know they had sex from the semen, but partial or complete lack of voluntariness is another issue. Do remember that your friend is effectively asking the State to use its authority to imprison someone - however unpleasant this whole business might be for your friend, certainly you want the State to be somewhat cautious about all this.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The J-justice system is a joke! This is a tiny step in the right direction, but still a long long way to go!

It is the envy of dictators worldwide. If the keystones are ever after you, guilty or not you had best try to flew the country as you a pretty guaranteed NOT to get a fair trial in Japan! My gut tells me its highly likely 20-30% perhaps more of J-prisoners are innocent but never had a hope in hell from the get go.

The J-justice system is nothing to be proud of, it can ensnare ANYONE!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Frungy wrote: "The victims won't care. After what they've been through a video camera in the room while they testify won't phase them."

I have to disagree. Victims of sexual assault will most certainly not want to have their face video'd as they speak to police about what is essentially a confession of the shame and "de-humiliation" (humiliation is an inept expression) that they experienced by forceful and violent means. It is unnecessary and intrusive to capture their statements in this way. Simple audio recording would better serve the same purposes of securing a direct (contemporaneous record) statement and deterring untoward questioning by authorities (misogynistic or otherwise). Bear in mind that if the case goes to trial any video or audio statement by the victim would be aired in court. The victim would then have to watch other people at court watching (her) whilst they watch (her) video statement on the monitor. That additional compounding of the victim's humiliation bears no justification. Furthermore, a video databank of emotionally fraught statements made by people claiming to have been raped should not be something for police to keep in their permanent evidence files to ogle or "accidently" leak to voyeurs, perverts or potential blackmailers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The simple solution to claims of turning off the recorder during questioning is to include a date/time stamp on all recordings that cannot be changed by any party involved in the questioning. If a recording suddenly jumps two minutes, then the evidence is compromised and should not be used.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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