Japan is considered a safe place. It’s a country where crime rates are low, and the state doesn’t jail many people when compared to other well-off nations.
But, there’s an odd thing that’s been occurring in Japan for a while; when people are accused of a crime there, they’re almost always convicted. In fact the country has a 99 percent conviction rate.
As part of this, confessions of guilt prop up 89 percent of criminal prosecutions. Largely this occurs because suspects can be held by police and prosecutors for up to 23 days, says The Economist in the below video.
“The trouble is, not all confessions are true. Some suspects will falsely admit guilt just to end a stressful interrogation, and interrogations in Japan can be very stressful,” says The Economist.
Access to a defense lawyer is also restricted during the interrogation period.
See The Economist’s video here about Japan’s conviction rate:
Other peculiarities of Japan’s court system is that they have no juries. It’s up to a panel of judges to decide on whether the accused is guilty. From 1928 – 1943, Japan had a standard jury system, and the conviction rate was around 82 percent, says The Daily Beast. After the war, the current system where trained judges delivered the verdicts was put in place. Since 2009 civilians have acted as lay judges on some cases.
As mentioned in the video, 98 percent of appeals fail because they either get dismissed, or retrial requests are retracted, or the accused passes away.
According to The Daily Beast, for Japanese prosecutors the focus isn’t about justice, but it’s about winning and saving face. And as for judges who give out too many not guilty decisions, they find their careers sidelined.
So are all of the 99 percent really guilty?
“The scale of wrongful convictions is hard to gauge. One defense lawyer guesses that 1,500 people, or a tenth of the total sent to jail each year, are wrongfully convicted,” says The Economist.