Japan introduces lay judge system

TOKYO, May 20 (UPI) -- Starting Thursday, Japan will have a lay judge system, with the first trial to be handled by lay judges along with professional ones set for July.

Initially, six people will be picked from among eligible voters to serve as lay judges, who will work with three professional district court judges in examining serious criminal cases.


Lay judges will also take part in the punishment phase of a trial, Kyodo News reported.

With the introduction of the system that will allow ordinary citizens to try criminal cases as judges, Japan has decided to follow the example of many other countries, Kyodo reported, noting, however, that some experts say the system will impose a lifetime of strict secrecy on the lay judges.

But there is also criticism the current trial process is too obtrusive, while the lay judge system is seen as being speedier and more reliable in administering justice.

Magistrates or justices of the peace, as lay judges are called in some countries, help settle a huge volume of criminal cases, thereby helping reduce crowded court dockets.

The jury system was suspended in Japan in 1943, Kyodo said. It said until now, Japan was the only one among the Group of Eight industrialized countries without a system permitting the public to take part in criminal trials.


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