Computers, Privacy & the Constitution
A perpetrator’s and victim’s privacy in a juvenile case in Japan

1 Introduction

This Article will explain how a perpetrator’s and victim’s privacy has been protected (or not been protected) in a juvenile case in Japan, how Internet has negative impact on it, and how to deal with it.

2 Minor’s privacy

Article 61 of Juvenile Act

The name of a perpetrator who is a minor (i.e., a person under 20 years old) is withheld in accordance with Article 61 of Juvenile Act of Japan. Article 61stipulates that running an article by describing name, age, address or his/her appearance or posting photos on newspaper or other publications which allows people to identify who committed the juvenile case shall be prohibited. The purpose of this provision is protecting privacy of a minor with a promising future, giving him/her a chance to reform, and preventing others from committing copycat crimes. As a matter of practice, in most cases, according to this provision, news medias make self-regulations and are subject to them. Therefore, minor’s privacy has been protected.
It is true that some magazines run an article with perpetrator’s name and pictures relating serious juvenile cases and violated Article 61. However, even in those cases, some remedies such as distributors’ self-regulation of selling the magazine and the order of Supreme Court of Japan to the publishers to collect the magazines worked efficiently.

After Internet Society

However, after dissemination of Internet, this situation has changed. That is, Article 61 no longer works effectively. For instance, in 1997, in a case where a 14-year-old junior high school boy was arrested on suspicion of murdering 2 elementary school students, some magazines run an article with his name and his photos in violation of Article 61. Therefore, above-mentioned remedies were taken in this case. However, at the time of 1997, Internet stated to become popular. After Internet became popular, anyone can upload photos and comment on everything. Even if all papers are collected, once the information is disseminated, such information is preserved on Internet forever. Therefore, the remedies did not work well. As a matter of fact, I can easily find his name and photos on Internet even though this case happened 16 years ago. Here, the above-mentioned purpose of Article 61 is almost neglected on Internet. Under situation that people are able to see his face and name on Internet at any time, how can that person reform in the society? Even if people cannot easily recognize him after he grew up, such situation must pressure him. Also, since information on Internet is likely to be exaggerated and to appeal to eyes, that might be one reason that motivates others to commit a similar crime. As such, under Internet society, Article 61 is no longer effective.

Arguments regarding revision of Article 61

Considering the fact that information that should be protected under Article 61 are distributed on Internet, we need to think to revise Article 61, including giving administrator the authority of omitting such information on Internet even if cat-and-mouse game between administrator and deliminators occur.
It is true that there is strong opposite arguments. According to such arguments, Article 61 should be revised to accept exemption allowing medias to announce the minor’s privacy in serious juvenile cases because first, people have the right to know the details of serious cases to protect themselves, and secondly, a perpetrator of the serious juvenile case should be somehow made a show of in public especially compared to the fact that victim’s privacy has not been protected for a long time. However, regarding the first reason, most of people living in far places do not have to know his name or photos to protect themselves. These people are just the crowd out of nothing but curiosity. People living neighbor are of necessity of protecting themselves, but they are easily able to identify who is a perpetrator by themselves because their places are flooded with medias, and thus do not have to get his name and photos. As such, the first reason is not persuasive. Also, the second reason is not reasonable because media should not have the right to make a show of the relevant minor’s, and protection of victim’s privacy is another question.
In conclusion, Article 61 should be revised to protect minor’s privacy in Internet society. -- AyaNakamura - 29 Apr 2013

3 Victim’s privacy

Compared to the fact that a minor in a juvenile case has been protected by Juvenile Act, the privacy of victims (including his/her family) has been exposed to public without any law protecting them. Firstly, as minor’s privacy has been protected by Article 61, there was no way for victims to even know his name and address. Secondly, since Article 22 stipulates that juvenile trial shall be held in private, victim’s family could not know how the minor grew up, which might be one reason of his act. As such, while victims could not know any important information about the minor, their privacy including victims’ name and living area has been exposed to public by medias especially when a juvenile case is sensational, which has caused them serious secondary damage. The dissemination of Internet has made the situation worse. For instance, in a case where 12 year- old girl was killed, since her name and her father’s name appeared on news, some people made thoughtless comments on her and her father on Internet, such as saying she was badly educated. In addition to the damage caused by the case itself, the victim and victim’s family have been suffering another damage, such as being a target of aspersion on Internet, caused by reports by medias.
In response, Fundamental Act for Victims was enacted in 2004, and based on this act Basic Plan for Victims was established in 2005. This plan leaves the announcement of victim’s name to the police’s judgment. According to this new act and plan, medias has started to change their own guidelines not to harm victims, including setting clear criteria about the anonymous report.

Confidentiality of juvenile justice is not going to survive the democratization of reporting, anywhere. Despite the many arguments in its favor, it's unworkable. The process can be "discreet": it can itself not publicize names, and the press can agree for prudential reasons to refrain from broadcasting the identities of juvenile offenders, sex crime victims, and other parties to public proceedings. But in a data-mining society, Google knows whether you've been a juvenile defendant or a sex crime victim, as well as lots of human beings who are under no actual compulsion to keep silent.

Large-scale regulatory collapse can be prevented: matters _sub judice_ in the UK are still largely left alone by mass media, for fear of judicial counteraction. But as the Net amplifies unmediated personal communication to global audibility, everything that can be said is said. Societies can try to censor the Net in real time, as the despotism of the Chinese Communist Party does, using a combination of machines and human brains. Or they can be committed to the protection of the inherent human right to free speech. They cannot do both. We have the easier job: we have to modify the Net around us so that we can communicate with one another securely. Then the Net will amplify our power to communicate, so that what human beings—citizens—need to know will be known. Only in that way can we assure democracy as well as freedom of speech survives.



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r3 - 14 Jan 2015 - 22:44:49 - IanSullivan
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