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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 February 13 - 19  > Don’t weaken Juvenile Act’s role of nipping crimes in bud
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2019 February 13 - 19 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Don’t weaken Juvenile Act’s role of nipping crimes in bud

February 18, 2019

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

With the age of adulthood defined by the Civil Code scheduled to be lowered from the current 20 to 18, the Justice Ministry’s Legislative Council, an advisory body to the Justice Minister, is now discussing whether the age of minors covered by the Juvenile Act should be lowered to 17 from the current 19.

Most juvenile cases involve unintentional traffic injuries or deaths, violation of the traffic law, shoplifting, or bodily injuries during, for example, a fight. In principle, all such cases are sent to a family court regardless of the severity of the alleged crime. The decision on each case is made after a court or a juvenile detention center provide a thorough background investigation and assessment of the individual characteristics of the minor in question.

In 2017, of 64,000 minor suspects, around 36,000 were aged 18 and 19, according to the white paper on crimes. If the Juvenile Act is amended as discussed, it will push this large number of young people out of the juvenile justice system.

Many delinquent minors have problems in their family life. A survey by the Justice Ministry’s Research and Training Institute in 2001 found that more than 70% of delinquents in reformatories had suffered from mental and physical abuse from members of their families. In order to help these boys and girls turn over a new leaf, adapt to the society, and become independent, personalized measures based on a welfare- and education-oriented approach is essential. From this perspective, the current Juvenile Act’s stance of sending all juvenile cases to a family court is effective.

If the minimum age of minors protected by the Juvenile Act is lowered, it would be used by the government as a pretext to streamline crime prevention and rehabilitation programs for minors. The number of juvenile crimes is on the decline in terms of both gross and per-capita data, and serious cases have become rare. On the other hand, young people are faced with more and more difficulties, such as the widening poverty and social gaps, the weakening of family and community ties, and problems of bullying and various abuses. The need is to protect and improve the current system of nipping problems in the bud.
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