Friday, October 07, 2011

Committees for the Inquest of the Prosecution

I have been trying to get a handled just how far and beyond the pale the current prosecution of Ozawa Ichiro is. The newspapers are either being slipshod or obscure in calling Ozawa's prosecution the first of its kind. I cannot tell whether they mean the first of its kind for a member of the Diet, the first of its kind under the 2009 revision of the law establishing the Committees for the Inquest of the Prosecution or the first of its kind for whatever reason.

The section of the Ministry of Justice White Papers on the subject of the dispositions by the Committees is not much help in this matter, though it does provide a very good review of the Committees in general.

For the Japanese language reader, the latest available White Paper is last year's, to be found here.

For the English-language reader, the latest available version is the 2008 White Paper, where the relevant section is White Paper on Crime 2008, Part 5, Chapter 2, Section 1.

Working from the English language 2008 publication, so that the greatest number of readers may benefit, one finds out that since the establishment of the Committees in 1949 through to 2008, 135,136 persons were recommended for prosecution by a Committee, 1,408 were prosecuted and 1,254 were convicted. One also finds out that the new law, which gives the Prosecutors Office a second crack at the evidence before the Committee submits a case to a judge, came into force on May 21, 2009 -- a rather odd date since most laws generally come into force on April 1 or October 1 of a given year. One also finds out that nationwide there are 165 Committees for the Inquest of the Prosecution.

Click on the pop out tables and matters start to get confusing.

In the first table 5-2-1-1, one learns that in 2008 2,039 cases were referred to the Committees, either by request of by an authority (what kind of authority would be doing this is unclear). Now the Committees probably have a backlog of work from previous years built up, so the number of cases they consider in a single year is not necessarily equal to the number they receive. In 2008, the Committees disposed of 2,366 cases, recommending 130 for prosecution.

Now what happened to those 130 cases?

T'is hard to tell because the second pop out (5-2-1-2) says that in 2008 151 cases were disposed of. One has to assume that this disposition was done by judges, though this is unclear. As with the actions of the Committees, the discrepancy between the number of cases disposed of by the Committees and those disposed of by the judges (?) must result from a backlog of cases from previous years or cases that did not make it to trial in the recording year.

Now it seems, though again it is unclear, that of the 151 cases brought before a judge in 2008 35 were actually prosecuted, the others being being dismissed by the court.

So what was the result of these 35 prosecutions? No way to tell, as the data does not report the conviction rates.

For the record, from the Japanese-language 2010 White Paper, 155,583 cases were referred to the Committees for the Inquest of the Prosecution in between 1949 and 2009, resulting in 1444 prosecutions and 1286 convictions.

Which indicates that in 2009, the courts started action on 36 cases and 32 cases ended in guilty verdicts. Furthermore, in comparing the data totals presented in both of the White Papers, 1 -- yes only 1 -- case ended in acquittal in 2009.

Gotta admit, that last number is not great news for Ozawa Ichiro.


Anonymous said...

Its really very simple.
The revision of the law did not "establish" the Committees, it gave the committees power to indict a certain person regardless of what the prosecutor's decision was. Until then, the committee's decision had no binding power, but now if they reach a decision of "起訴相当" twice, the court must appoint a lawyer to take over the prosecutor's job, and the lawyer must indict the said party.
There have been 4 such cases indicted so far, but Ozawa's is the first to actually have reached the courts.

The reason that it was May 21st, is that that was the day that the revised criminal code passed the Diet and went into law in 2004 (the revision was not in 2009). The revised law stated that the new system, along with the new jury system (which of course was the main focus then) would go into effect "within 5 years". The Supreme Court and MOJ took the whole 5 years to prepare, so May 21st was the day chosen.

By the way, you misquote the white paper. It is not "by request of by an authority" but "receiving a request or the authority to do so", meaning that they review cases either by request of the parties involved, or on their own authority (職権で).

MTC said...

Anonymous -

Thank you for the clarifications and the corrections.

Do you have a source for the number of cases that have passed through the revised system?