Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Impact of 'visualization' in criminal investigations"

Here's another update on the use of "visualization" in criminal investigations from today's Daily Yomiuri Online. Simply ridiculous...

The panel tasked with studying prosecution reform concluded that the visualization of interrogations through audio or video recording in all sorts of criminal investigations should be discussed.

As a result, a "subcommittee on the criminal justice system in a new era" was established in June under the Legislative Council to examine the state of the nation's criminal justice system.

The 26-member expert subcommittee is to discuss the range and types of cases subject to visualized interrogation, with the ultimate aim of preparing legislation on the visualization of interrogations of criminal cases.

The focal point of discussion is how to assess the impact of the visualization of interrogations on criminal investigations.

Police authorities and prosecutors are worried that in the investigation of cases involving organized crime, bribery or economic offenses, which may involve little concrete evidence, it will be more difficult to clarify what has actually happened.

For example, rank-and-file members of an organized crime group involved in a smuggling case, or secretaries of politicians and bribe-giving firms involved in a political corruption case, likely would not confess anything disadvantageous to their bosses in front of cameras.

Lawyer Masaru Wakasa, who once served as chief of the public security division at the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office, said, "As those involved in criminal cases won't tell investigators [anything disadvantageous to their seniors] for fear of retaliation or harsh treatment, there will be an increase in such cases whereby the involvement of those in the upper echelons cannot be proved."

In the experimental visualization of interrogations, which the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office started in April, a problem has arisen in that the prosecutors' interrogation of suspects became lax.

Makoto Miyazaki, a member of the subcommittee and a former president of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, downplayed this concern by saying, "In foreign countries where they adopted the visualization of interrogations, they are able to have suspects confess by improving their techniques of inquiry."

Police authorities and prosecutors have said that to supplement the interrogation functions that would be impaired by the visualization of interrogations, it would be necessary to adopt new methods, including plea bargaining or expanded use of wiretapping.

Hidehiko Sato, a member of the subcommittee and a former director general of the National Police Agency, said: "If criminal cases that cannot be prosecuted increase due to the visualization of interrogations, it would directly lead to deterioration of public security. It is therefore essential to adopt new investigation methods to punish suspects properly and to maintain law and order."

The subcommittee is expected to propose a new framework of criminal justice in two years' time. But it remains an open question whether the panel can reach a unified conclusion, because of wide differences in views among its members.


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