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Public prosecutors offices handle the work of public prosecutors. They are divided into four types:the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office corresponding to the Supreme Court;High Public Prosecutors Offices corresponding to High Courts;District Prosecutors Offices corresponding to District Courts and Family Courts;and Local Public Prosecutors Offices corresponding to Summary Courts. As of June 30, 2001, the numbers of organizations were: 1 Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, 8 high public prosecutors offices and 6 branches thereof, 50 district public prosecutors offices and 203 branches thereof, and 438 local public prosecutors offices.
Public prosecutors, as representatives of the public interest, have the authority to: (1)investigate crimes; (2)publicly prosecute criminal cases; (3)request due process of law from courts; (4)supervise the execution of trials for criminal cases; (5)request notification from or state opinions to courts with respect to other matters under the authority of courts when they consider it necessary to do so in performing their duties;and (6)carry out duties assigned to their authority under other laws and ordinances.
Japan adopts the principle of prosecution by the state. Prosecution by private individuals is not permitted, and the right to prosecute is exclusively granted to public prosecutors, with the only exception being the so-called"quasi-prosecution procedures" (see Part II, Chapter 6, Section 3 ) involving applications to commit a case to a court for trial (the principle of monopolization of prosecutions by public prosecutors).
Public prosecutors proceed criminal investigation when they receive cases referred from the police, etc. or charges and complaints or recognize cases themselves, and dispose of the cases based on the investigation results. Dispositions of cases consist of final and intermediate dispositions, and final dispositions are roughly divided into prosecution and non-prosecution dispositions.
Prosecution dispositions include request for formal trial, request for summary proceedings and request for speedy trial. Reasons for non-prosecution dispositions include (1)insufficient conditions for prosecution, such as death of the suspect, dissolution of a corporation, lack, invalidity, or withdrawal of a charge, complaint or request in the case of offenses to be prosecuted upon charge, complaint, or request (2)the case not being considered an offense because the suspect is a minor or mentally disabled, and (3)the suspicion of an offense not being recognized due to lack or insufficiency of evidence. Even when the suspicion of an offense is recognized, public prosecutors may make a decision to suspend prosecution if prosecution is deemed to be unnecessary in light of the character, age, or circumstances of the suspect, the seriousness and nature of the offense, and the situation after the offense (the principle of discretionary prosecution).
Public prosecutors are obliged to refer cases involving juvenile suspects to family courts when they perceive the suspicion of an offense following their investigations into such cases, except when these cases have been transferred to them by family courts. Even if there is no suspicion of an offense, they are also obliged to refer cases to family courts when they consider that there are grounds for such cases to be examined by family courts, as in the case of status offenses (see Part III, Chapter 2, Section 2-1 , for the prosecution of juvenile cases).