White paper on crime 2010 Part4/Chapter2/Section1/2
A family court is required to investigate any case received from public prosecutors, etc. and may order a family court research law clerk to conduct the necessary investigations.
The family court may transfer the juvenile to a juvenile classification home and request a classification of their predisposition based on the decision of protective detention if it is necessary for a hearing to take place. In that case juvenile classification homes accommodate the referred juveniles and classify their predispositions based on the expertise they have in medicine, psychology, pedagogy, sociology, and other specialized fields in order to contribute to hearings, etc. held by family courts. As of April 1, 2010, there were 52 juvenile classification homes nationwide (including one branch home).
If the family court determines in light of the results of an investigation that taking measures under the Child Welfare Act would be appropriate, the case is then referred to the prefectural governor or the director of a child guidance center. The family court then disposes the cases according to the substance of the pertinent facts by making a decision to either dismiss them without a hearing or initiate the hearing process.
Hearings at family courts typically involve a single judge. However, a collegiate court body of judges can conduct them if the decision to do so has been made.
Hearings are closed to the public but family courts may allow victims, etc. to attend the hearing of certain serious cases upon request if deemed appropriate and not likely to disrupt the healthy development of the juvenile.
A family court can also decide to enable a public prosecutor to be involved in (attend) the hearing if deemed necessary in fact finding concerning the delinquency of a juvenile offender case with specific serious offenses.
A family court can also place a juvenile under tentative supervision, and assign a family court research law clerk to directly supervise the juvenile for a certain period of time if deemed necessary in determining the appropriate protective measures.
After the hearing the family court then makes a decision on dismissal if it deems it impossible or unnecessary to place the juvenile under protective measures. If a family court does deem taking measures under the Child Welfare Act to be appropriate, however, the case is referred to the prefectural governor or the director of a child guidance center. If a case involves an offense punishable by the death penalty or imprisonment with or without work the family court refers the case to a public prosecutor if a criminal disposition is deemed appropriate. However, a family court is required, in principle, to refer any case involving a serious offense committed by a juvenile aged 16 or older to a public prosecutor. In any other case a family court is required to make the decision on whether to place the juvenile under one of the following protective measures: probation; commitment to a support facility for development of self-sustaining capacity/children's home (limited to juveniles younger than 18); or commitment to a juvenile training school (generally limited to juveniles aged 12 or older).
A juvenile, his/her legal representative or attendant may appeal against the decision of protective measure to a high court only when they have grounds to insist that there was violation of related acts within the procedures, etc. to decide the protective measure and the violation should have affected the decision, or that there was a grave error in fact-finding, or that the decision was seriously unfair. Public prosecutor can request a high court to accept the case as an appeal against the disposition of a family court only when there was the decision to make public prosecutor attend the hearing and in addition there was violation of related acts within the procedures, etc. to decide the disposition and the violation should have affected the decision, or there was a grave error in finding fact of/concerning the delinquency.