The National Police Agency (NPA) started audiovisual recordings of parts of police interrogations on an experimental basis in 5 police departments across Japan back in September 2008. NPA extended the experiment to include all police departments from April 2010. Recently in March, it expanded the partial recordings to interrogations in more cases.
Previously, partial recordings of interrogations aimed to strengthen the prosecution’s case in proving the voluntariness of confessions at trial. They only recorded in those cases where 1. the trial was subject to a mixed-judge panel trial (with lay judge participation = most serious cases), 2. the suspect had already confessed, 3. the “truth-finding” function of the interrogation was not compromised, 4. there was no difficulty in recording, and 5. the voluntariness of the confession might be challenged at future trial.
In these cases, interrogations by police were partially recorded, only after suspects confessed: there was no recording during the process leading up to the confession itself. Read the NPA report on these experimental recordings in June 2011 here (in Japanese).
An internal study panel of the National Public Safety Commission issued a report in February 2012. It called for the expansion of partial recordings, although it did not recommend the recordings of the entire process of interrogation. Read the report here (in Japanese).
As recommended by the February report, a part of the new proposal by NPA last month (titled “A Program Towards Sophistication of Investigation and Interrogation”) stated that it will expand the cases that are subject to partial recordings from April 2012. The recordings are to include cases that are subject to mixed-judge panel cases where the suspects do not confess, and cases (regardless of the seriousness of the charge) with suspects with intellectual disabilities who are easily manipulated.
They will also start recording earlier stages of interrogations where suspects explain what they have to say to the officer, when the officers are putting together the statements of the suspects into a dossier, and when finished dossiers are being read to the suspects and signed by them. The police still do not have to record in those situations where the “purpose of the interrogation will be compromised”.
Police still do not have to record the whole interrogation, from the beginning to the end. It is up to the discretion of the interrogating police officers whether to record certain scenes. In short, false and involuntary confessions will not be prevented by the proposed partial recording.
Read the recent proposals on partial recordings of interrogations here and here (in Japanese).
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