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2 Flow of treatment procedure at a family court
(1) Investigation by a family court and classification by a juvenile classification home
After receiving a case, the family court must investigate the case and may order a family court probation officer to interview the juvenile, guardians and witnesses, and to conduct other necessary investigations. These investigations should be conducted concerning the behavior, background, predisposition, and environment etc. of the juvenile, the guardians and other persons concerned, making much of expertise in medicine, psychology, pedagogy, sociology, and other academic fields, and should carefully consider the results of classification by a juvenile classification home, in particular. When necessary for conducting a hearing, the family court, making a disposition of protective detention, may require classification on predisposition by transferring the juvenile in question to a juvenile classification home.
The juvenile classification home detains the transferred juvenile and conducts classification on the predisposition of the juvenile based on expertise in medicine, psychology, pedagogy, and sociology, etc. The term to detain juveniles in a juvenile classification home under protective detention is two weeks, in principle, but can be extended only once when necessary. Regarding cases that meet certain requirements, the term can be extended up to two more times.
If the family court determines, in light of the results of the investigation, that measures under the Child Welfare Act are appropriate, it has to refer the case to the prefectural governor or the director of a child guidance center. The family court terminates a case by making a decision of dismissal without a hearing if it determines that it is impossible or inappropriate to subject the juvenile to a hearing. If the court determines that a hearing should be conducted on the juvenile, it makes a decision to commence such hearing.
(2) Hearing by a family court
Each hearing at a family court is generally performed by a single judge. However, if it is decided by a collegiate court body to perform a hearing by a collegiate court body, the collegiate court body of judges handles the hearing. A hearing at a family court must be closed to the public, and on the date of the hearing, the juvenile and his/her guardians are summoned. A family court probation officer may also be required to be present, if necessary. In addition, relatives of the juvenile, teachers and other persons deemed appropriate may be allowed to attend the hearing.
With the permission of the family court, the juvenile and guardians may appoint a person other than a lawyer as an attendant. To appoint a lawyer as an attendant, such permission is not required. Guardians may themselves serve as attendants with the permission of the court. Attendants may attend the hearing.
The family court may decide to have a public prosecutor attend the hearing if it recognizes that it is necessary for a public prosecutor to become involved in the procedure of the hearing to verify the facts of the delinquency related to any offense committed by a juvenile offender aged 14-19 in which a victim was killed through the offender's intentional criminal act or any other offense committed by a juvenile offender that is punishable by the death penalty, life imprisonment, or imprisonment with or without work for a minimum period of 2 years or more. In such cases, if the juvenile does not have a lawyer as an attendant, the family court must assign a public attendant to the juvenile.
The family court may also place the juvenile under tentative supervision, which is to prompt a family court probation officer to directly supervise the juvenile for a certain period of time, if it deems such supervision necessary to determine appropriate protective measures. Furthermore, if it is deemed necessary, the family court may take necessary measures such as admonition, guidance and so on at the investigation or hearing in order to ensure that guardians recognize their responsibility for the custody of the juvenile and take action to prevent delinquency, or may order a family court probation officer to take such measures.
If the hearing leads the court to determine that it is impossible or unnecessary to place the juvenile under protective measures, it has to make a decision of dismissal after the hearing. If the family court determines that measures under the Child Welfare Act are appropriate, it refers the case to the prefectural governor or the director of a child guidance center. When the case involves an offense punishable by the death penalty or an offense punishable by imprisonment with or without work, the family court refers the case to a public prosecutor if it determines that criminal disposition is appropriate. Also, as for cases in which victims died due to intentional criminal acts that were committed by a juvenile at the age of 16 or over, the family court must refer such a case to a public prosecutor, except for a case where measures other than criminal dispositions are considered as more appropriate in light of the motives and type of offense, situations after the offense, the personality, age, behavior and environment of the juvenile and other conditions. In cases other than these, the family court has to make decision of protective measures such as a disposition of probation, commitment to a support facility for development of self-sustaining capacity, or a children's home (limited for those under 18), or commitment to a juvenile training school (limited for those aged 14 or over).
The juvenile, or his/her legal representative or attendant, may make an appeal against the disposition of a protective measure within two weeks to a high court, only on the grounds of a violation of any act or regulation that affects the disposition, a grave error in the fact-finding process that influences the disposition, or serious unfairness of the disposition (However, an attendant must not make an appeal against the clearly expressed will of the guardians who appointed the attendant). In cases where it is decided to involve a public prosecutor in a case, the prosecutor may request that a high court accept the case as an appeal case against the disposition to take or not to take protective measures within two weeks, only on the grounds of a violation of any act or regulation that affects the disposition or a grave error in the fact-finding process.