White paper on crime 2012 Part6/Section4
The Japan Legal Support Center (so-called Houterasu; hereinafter referred to as the “Center”) was established on April 10, 2006 to play a core role in the general support system based on the Comprehensive Legal Support Act. The Center has the main office in Tokyo and branches in places corresponding to those where the respective district courts are located. It commenced to provide services on October 2, 2006.
In collaboration and cooperation with the relevant agencies and organizations, the Center provides enhanced information to enable the public to take full advantage of the effective legal dispute resolution system, financial support service for making legal aid available in civil affairs, and legal services in the areas with difficulty in finding lawyers, etc. due to their shortage. Within the areas of criminal justice, the Center provides services to support crime victims, etc. (See Section 1, Chapter 2, Part 5), and services related to assigning court-appointed defense counsels.
More concretely, the Center provides services to assign a lawyer (including full-time lawyer) contracting with the Center as a candidate of court appointed defense counsel when a suspect or a defendant needs one, upon a request of a court, and then to inform the court of the lawyer and make the lawyer serve for the duty at the same time. The number of requests the Center received to assign court-appointed defense counsels in FY 2011 was 73,209 (up 2,292 from the previous year) for suspects and 67,374 (down 2,260 (id.)) for defendants. As for the assignment of court-appointed attendants for juveniles subject to hearing procedure, it received 469 (up 46 (id.)) requests in FY 2011 (Source: Japan Legal Support Center).
After the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Center announced over its website about fraud being committed taking advantage of the confusion caused by the earthquake disaster in the areas that suffered damage. The Center has also provided information on relevant legal systems and institutions through consultations over the telephone in cooperation with the Japan Federation of Bar Associations and other relevant agencies, Earthquake Disaster Dial (toll-free call), and the local offices that the Center newly established in the areas that suffered damage. Besides these efforts, the Center has provided free legal consultation visits by lawyers to resolve the disputes over inheritance or neighboring relationships, etc. as a support for the disaster victims.