Newscasts on June 3rd reported that the National Public Safety Commission approved a set of revisions to the police guidelines on investigations. It is coincidental; of course, that this is taking place at the same time the investigations concerning the recent murder of Tomomi Kawamata has come under criticism. Whether or not the particular criticisms leveled by some in the foreign community here in Tsukuba are justified is difficult to discern, but there are some parallels between those criticisms and the factors that have led to these revisions.
In the June 4 Daily Yomiuri, it was reported that a thorough survey of the victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack by the Aum Shinrikyo cult was made. While most of the 1247 respondents made favorable comments, some also felt that they were treated as if they themselves were the criminals.
Specifically, the police guidelines, which go into effect at the end of June, contain 275 articles dealing with the treatment of victims and the responsibilities of police officers. There are four main revisions to the guidelines, including that police be required to consider the feelings of victims and their families, to respect their individual personalities and to question victims about crimes in an environment that minimizes their anxiety.
Likewise, investigators will now be required to explain investigation procedures and keep victims updated of progress if such information will help them get over the experience of the crime. Also, police will be required to take measures to protect the identity of victims from their victimizers so that it will be more difficult to take revenge on them at a later date.
The Yomiuri report also mentioned a nationwide victim-support group that had recently made a declaration of the rights of the crime victims. The seven specific rights of victims were not detailed in the article other than the right to receive fair treatment, but the report did say that victimís rights have often been ignored by the police. The police are listening, and changes are promised.
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