Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"Statute of limitation for murder abolished

"The Diet on Tuesday passed bills into law abolishing the statute of limitation for murder cases and doubling the limits for other crimes that result in death.

"The government promulgated and enacted the legislation later the same day.

"The bills to revise the Criminal Procedure Code and the Penal Code were passed at the House of Representatives plenary session with the support of the ruling parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.

"Ahead of the plenary session, the lower house's Judicial Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bills.

"The abolishment and extension of the statutes of limitation also will be applied to past cases whose limits had not expired by the time the legislation was enacted.

"The statute of limitation in a 1995 case in which a couple in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, was fatally stabbed and their house set alight, which was to expire midnight Wednesday, was abolished.

"The government and ruling parties started deliberations on the bills on April 1 at the House of Councillors. They passed the upper house on April 14 and were sent to the lower house.

"Under the revised law, the statute of limitation will be abolished for murder, murder-robbery and other crimes for which the maximum penalty is the death sentence. Before the revision, the statute of limitation expired 25 years after the crime.

"The statute of limitation for sexual assault resulting in death and rape resulting in death, for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment, will be extended from 15 years to 30 years.

"The duration will be extended from 10 years to 20 years for bodily injury resulting in death and dangerous driving resulting in death, for which the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison.

"The abolishment and doubling of statutes of limitation is expected to prolong investigations into unsolved cases. Because of this, investigative authorities will need to preserve evidence for years.

"Experts have pointed out that if investigators make errors in handing over evidence to their successors, it could result in innocent people being arrested and facing criminal charges.

"Judicial affairs committees of both houses of the Diet therefore adopted supplementary resolutions to the legislation calling for items of evidence to be stored properly.

"Isao Okamura, a lawyer representing the National Association of Crime Victims and Surviving Families, was delighted by Tuesday's developments.

""I welcome [the revision] from the bottom of my heart," he said in a statement.

"But Yukio Yamashita, acting head of the Committee on Criminal Law Legislation of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, believes the revision is not without flaws.

""It's inappropriate to revise the entire legal system so hastily for a case whose statute of limitation will expire soon," he said.

"The federation finds it particularly problematic that the revision can be applied retroactively to past cases.

""[The Diet] should have summoned constitutional experts and listened to their opinions," Yamashita said."

Yomiuri Shimbun (4/28/2010), Link to article (last visited 4/28/2010)

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