Thursday, January 12, 2006


Few of us foreigners are well versed on specifics of Japanese law, but it was a relief to learn that "the Justice Ministry plans to allow criminal suspects or defendants waiting for trial under detention at police stations or at detention centers to contact their lawyers by telephone." This change will occur not all that long after the telephone was invented. In terms of Japanese legal system time, which differs only in minor respects from geological time, adoption of the telephone will be a relative snap of the fingers when it maybe happens next year partly. Only one more year and partly you may be able to partly call maybe your lawyer.

But all you folks who are or plan to be in city detention shouldn't start glacially jumping for joy just yet. The defendant-lawyer phone communication system in the initial stage likely will cover detention facilities far from urban areas (where the lawyers, courts and public prosecutors' offices are). So if you're in a city jail, the best you can hope for is probably carrier pigeon, until a century or so after the fax was invented.

Until the telephone becomes available, though, defendant-lawyer communication will still be done the old way, by exchange of letters, which apart from postal delays could be a problem if you can't use scroll paper and writing brush - if you can write Japanese. If you can't, you may have to communicate with your translator by runner, as in Edo days.

For their part, lawyers (those pushy agitators for legal reform) will be allowed to call their clients from police stations and public prosecutors' offices, so as to obviate any unwarranted sense of confidentiality.

You can almost feel the thrill of liberty in the land...

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