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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Event date: 
Monday, 19 October, 2020 - 18:00 to 19:30


The Limits of Change in Japanese Criminal Justice

In recent years several new forms of lay participation have been introduced in Japanese criminal justice, including a lay judge trial system, a victim participation system, and mandatory prosecution through the review of non-charge decisions by citizens serving on Prosecution Review Commissions. This presentation focuses on the path to, content and on the effects of these reforms. While many things have been modified in Japanese criminal procedure, there is more continuity than change with respect to criminal justice substance (who has control) and outcome (who gets what). We will summarize some of the positive changes in Japan’s criminal process that have resulted from recent lay participation reforms and then argue that overall Japan’s reforms are limited and problematic. Topics such as the lay judge trials, police investigations, prosecutors, conviction rates, sentencing decisions and the death penalty will be the focus in this presentation to assess the effects of criminal justice reforms in today’s Japan.

Dimitri Vanoverbeke is a professor at the KU Leuven (Belgium) and Director of the Department of East Asian and Arabic Studies. He lectures in Japanese Studies (law and society), at the Law Faculty and in the Europe-Asia: Interactions and Comparisons module of the Master of Arts in European Studies at the KU Leuven (East Asian Politics). His current research interests relate to law and society, policymaking, the function of legal institutions and the relationship between law, politics and society in modern and contemporary Japan in a domestic and international context. Book-publications include: Global Constitutionalism from European and East Asian Perspectives: (eds. Suami, Takao, Peters, Anne, Kumm, Mattias, Vanoverbeke Dimitri), Cambridge University Press, 2018; Developing EU–Japan Relations in a Changing Regional Context: A Focus on Security, Law and Policies, (eds. Dimitri Vanoverbeke, Takao Suami, Takako Ueta, Nicholas Peeters, Frederik Ponjaert), Routledge, 2017; Juries in the Japanese Legal System: The Continuing Struggle for Citizen Participation and Democracy, Routledge (Asian Law Series), 2015; The Changing Role of Law in Japan: Empirical Studies in Culture, Society and Policy Making (eds. Vanoverbeke, D., Maesschalck, J., Nelken, D., Parmentier, S.), Edward Elgar Publishers, 2014).