Recovery of public safety

In the past Japan was proud of its image in the world of being an exceptionally safe country, but in recent years, the number of criminal cases that have been identified by the authorities has increased remarkably, while the clearance rate has dropped drastically and remains at a very low level, which makes the deterioration of public safety an issue of grave concern to the nation. In particular, exceptionally violent crimes attracting public attention and the occurrence close at hand of many offences committed by youngsters or by foreign nationals coming to Japan are making people uneasy about the maintenance of public order. In addition, since computers and high-level information technology such as the Internet have become a common feature of daily life, new crimes abusing such advanced technology have risen in number. Further, effective measures against international terrorism such as the multiple terrorist attacks on the United States, and efforts toward solving problems concerning the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea, are needed.

Under such circumstances, the Government, aiming at restoration of Japan as “the safest country in the world”, inaugurated the Ministerial Meeting Concerning Measures against Crime, which formulated in December 2003 “The Action Plan for the Realization of a Society Resistant to Crime”, and the Conference is actively promoting comprehensive measures such as various countermeasures against crime including shoreline countermeasures, the consolidation of a social environment under which it is difficult to commit crimes, and the strengthening of the structure of agencies and organs responsible for public safety.

Based on the important issues shown in this plan (Action Plan for the Realization of a Society Resistant to Crime), the Ministry of Justice submitted the Bill for Partial Amendment to the Penal Code and other related laws to the Diet, which raised the terms of statutory penalties for heinous and serious crimes and extended the statute of limitations for prosecution, and this Law has been in force since the beginning of 2005. Further, the Ministry of Justice, in order to better protect the economy and society from organized crime and suchlike, is engaged in getting legislation passed, including criminal provisions, to combat the obstruction of compulsory execution, which is also necessary for ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime; as well as legislation for measures against high-tech crimes, thereby enabling ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime.

In order to deal effectively with the frequent occurrence of serious crimes committed by foreign nationals and the increase in the number of transnational crimes, it is necessary to make the procedure for gathering evidence from abroad more effective and to enhance cooperation between the investigative authorities of foreign countries and Japan. As part of such enhancement of cooperation, the Japanese Government has concluded the Treaty between Japan and the United States of America on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (entered into force on 21 July 2006) and the Treaty between Japan and Korea on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (entered into force on 26 January 2007). These treaties have made it possible to send and receive requests not through diplomatic channel but directly between the Ministry of Justice or other competent authorities of Japan and the Ministry of Justice of respective countries, enabling the expediting of procedures. The Japanese Government is also negotiating with Hong Kong, Russia and China to conclude the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. The Ministry of Justice is in the position of developing cooperation with other countries in the future.

The Bill for Partial Amendment to the Penal Code and Other Related Laws has been submitted to the 2005 Ordinary Session of the Diet, which is necessary to ratify the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and to cope with the modern crime of violation of the right to liberty, for example, confinement for long periods and the heinous kidnapping of minors, and this Law has been in force since July 2005.

In order to stabilize the public security of the nation, preventing the re-offending of offenders who have committed crimes or delinquency is also important.

Penal institutions including prisons, juvenile prisons and detention houses, are now suffering from a severe overcrowding of inmates and it is thought that this may adversely affect the treatment given by the institutions. Therefore the Ministry is striving to solve the problem by such means as the construction of prisons using private financial initiatives (PFI). Furthermore, in order to find a way to enable the large numbers of Chinese inmates, who are one of the causes of overcrowding, to be transferred to their home country, the Ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is working toward early conclusion of a bilateral treaty between Japan and China and continues dialogues with China.

In addition, the Ministry is striving to prevent inmates from re-offending by improving the treatment programs for the rehabilitation and smooth resocialization of inmates.

In the field of rehabilitation of offenders in the community, the Ministry of Justice is aiming to smoothly enforce the Offenders Rehabilitation Act, which was passed by the Diet and was promulgated in June 2007 and to ensure fair application of the Act in order to improve and strengthen the offenders rehabilitation system in the community.

The Offenders Rehabilitation Act shall be enforced on a date which is specified by a Cabinet Order within a period not exceeding one year from the day of promulgation (June 15, 2007). However, some articles of the Act which relate to support of crime victims were already enforced on December 1, 2007. In order to carry out balanced probation, parole, and improvement of the system of cooperation between rehabilitation workers in the private sector such as volunteer probation officers, and public officers, the Ministry of Justice is striving to strictly enforce the lower laws and ordinances which lay down the detailed regulations of the bill of the Offenders Rehabilitation Act. In addition, the Rehabilitation Bureau is endeavoring to establish strong rehabilitation of offenders in the community in a way which will fulfill the expectations of the citizens in the future.

To ensure balanced and effective probation, the Ministry of Justice implements the following from the viewpoint of the appropriate roles for probation officers and volunteer probation officers: guidance and assistance by probation officers who give direct and intensive supervision to persons who need special consideration for treatment, reinforcement of direct participation by probation officers for persons who need focused treatment, implementation of special treatment programs for sex offenders, violent offenders and drug abusers. In addition, assisting in securing employment is extremely important to prevent re-offending. Therefore, the Ministry of Justice promotes finding employment together with public employment security offices to support probationers and parolees in finding work, promotes measures for work security in a variety of industries and fields through cooperation with the ministries concerned, and promotes the National Halfway House Project.

Concerning antiterrorism measures, the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (hereinafter to be referred to as the Immigration Control Act), was revised in the regular session of the Diet in 2005 in order to include new counter-terrorism measures, based on the Action Plan for the Prevention of Terrorism (decided on December 10, 2004 by the Headquarters for the Promotion of Countermeasures against International Terrorism including International Organized Crime) and the amended Act entered into effect in December of 2005.

Further, according to the plan, the ordinary Diet Session in 2006 amended the Immigration Control Act. The revision included the introduction of (i) regulations requiring foreign nationals to provide fingerprints and other personal identification at the landing examination, (ii) regulations regarding the grounds for deportation of foreign terrorists, and (iii) regulations requiring the captains of ships and other vessels entering Japan to report in advance information regarding crewmembers and passengers.

With regard to North Korea, the Public Security Intelligence Agency is collecting and analyzing information such as abduction, nuclear and missile issues, in order to contribute to providing solutions. Further, the Agency is endeavoring to consolidate its intelligence collection mechanism by intensifying and expanding its intelligence network and its cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies in order to prevent the occurrence of terrorist attacks by international terrorist organizations, and to clarify the actual state of such organizations as well as to detect international terrorism related activities in Japan, while making efforts to actively promote the Government’s “Action Plan for the Prevention of Terrorism” with other agencies and organizations concerned. With regard to Aum Shinrikyo (the Aum cult), taking into consideration that there is no fundamental change in its dangerous nature even after the cult split into the main stream group and the Joyu group in May 2007, the Agency is strictly implementing the measure to place the groups under surveillance thereby clarifying the organizations themselves and their activities and providing local governments at their request with the results of the surveillance, thus trying to secure the safety of the public and ease the fears and the anxiety of the Japanese people.

(Criminal Affairs Bureau, Correction Bureau, Rehabilitation Bureau, Immigration Bureau, Public Security Intelligence Agency, and Public Security Examination Commission)