2 Victim participation, etc. in trials

(1) Victim participation system

The Code of Criminal Procedure was amended (by Act No. 95 of 2007) and the victim participation system commenced in December 2008. Under this system the court decides whether the victims, etc. of certain offenses can attend the court on the trial date as participating victims to thereby state their opinions on the performance of public prosecutors, examine witnesses regarding circumstantial issues, question defendants in preparing for statement of opinions, and state their opinions on fact finding and application of the relevant laws, etc. When a participating victim attends the court on the trial date, etc., the court can take measures to shield the participating victim from the defendant or from the public in the court or allow the participating victim to be accompanied by any person the court deems appropriate.

In addition, the Act on Measures Incidental to Criminal Procedures for Purpose of Protection of Rights and Interests of Crime Victims (Act No. 75 of 2000) and the Comprehensive Legal Support Act (Act No. 74 of 2004) enable victims, etc., depending on their financial status, to apply for court-appointed attorneys when the victims, etc. entrust attorneys to participate in criminal proceedings on their behalf.

Table 5-2-1-3 [1] shows the status of implementation of these systems.

(2) Victims, etc. and witness protection, etc.

From 2000, victims, etc. have been provided with the opportunity to express their feelings about the damage caused by the pertinent offense and their opinions with regard to the case on the date of the trial or to instead submit documents stating their opinions.

The victims of crime often appear as witnesses at trials. There are various systems in place to protect witnesses at the time of their examination and which include the following: a system of measures to shield the witness from the defendant or from the public at the court; a system in which the witness remains in a different room and is examined via audiovisual communication through the transmission of images and sound (video-link system); and a system that allows a witness to be accompanied by any person the court deems appropriate. The shielding, video-link, and accompanying measures can also be used with victims, etc. to enable them to express their opinions on the trial date.

In addition, a system wherein information on the victims’ identity, including their names, is protected in criminal proceedings (decision to conceal the identities of victims, request to conceal the identities of victims upon disclosure of evidence) has also been implemented since December 2007.

Table 5-2-1-3 [2] shows the status of implementation of these systems over the last five years.

(3) Judicial compromise and restitution order system

The defendants and victims, etc. involved in criminal cases can jointly request for an agreement that has been reached in a civil dispute related to the criminal case to be included in the public trial protocol of a criminal case. Any such agreement included within the protocol is considered to have the same effect as a compromise reached in a civil trial (judicial compromise). Victims, etc. can request the pertinent court for compulsory execution using the protocol of the criminal case if the defendant fails to fulfill their duties.

In addition, restitution order system has been in place since December 2008 with regard to certain serious offenses that enables victims, etc. to claim the pertinent criminal court for a restitution order for which the court proceeds an exceptional trial procedure to examine the criminal records after conviction of the criminal case and makes a decision on the claim.

Table 5-2-1-3 [2] shows the status of implementation of these systems over the last five years.

(4) Inspection/copying of trial records

Conventionally inspections or copying of trial records has only been permitted upon the request of a victim, etc. when a court has identified sufficient reason and grounds for granting any such request. The scope of the applicable cases, however, was extended in December 2007, and in principle, courts should allow victims, etc. to inspect or copy all trial records (with victims, etc. of other offenses of similar kinds committed by the same defendant also being allowed to inspect or copy records if the court deems it necessary and appropriate in exercising their right to claim damage compensation).

Table 5-2-1-3 [2] shows the number of cases in which victims, etc. inspected/copied trial records over the last five years.

Records of non-prosecuted cases, in principle, cannot be disclosed. However, there are cases where victims, etc. require objective evidence such as on-the-spot investigation report in exercising their right to claim compensation for damage or other rights in civil lawsuits. In light of this public prosecutors can enable any such evidence to be inspected or copied if they deem it appropriate, but only to the extent that it does not impose any risk of invading the privacy of the persons concerned. In addition, since December 2008, victims, etc. have in principle been allowed to inspect objective evidence within non-prosecuted case records when those cases would have been subject to the victim participation system if they had been indicted, and even if the aim is to just “identify the details of the case.”

Table 5-2-1-3 Status of implementation of systems for victims, etc. at trial stage

Table 5-2-1-3