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New Trends in Victim Support Scheme in Japan (From Victims and Criminal Justice: Asian Perspective, P 107-180, 2003, Tatsuya Ota, ed. -- See NCJ-202214)

NCJ Number
Tatsuya Ota
Date Published
74 pages
This examination of recent trends in victim support in Japan are examined in the areas of offender and state victim compensation, the legal position of crime victims within the criminal justice system, and the services of victim-support organizations.
In order to obtain restitution from offenders in Japan, crime victims may file lawsuits for damages against offenders as tort. A restitution order is not institutionalized in Japan, so a criminal court has no authority to order a defendant to pay damages to victims either as a punishment or as a civil judgment. Offenders' payment of damages to victims may be one of the mitigating circumstances in sentencing, however. Although offenders who receive remuneration for prison work may send part of it as restitution to victims, in practice there are only a few inmates who actually do this, and even then the amount of money sent to victims is small. In parole board decisions, reparation payments to victims for their loses may be taken into consideration as a part of "public feelings" and inmate "contrition." Regarding state compensation for crime victims, the Crime Victim Benefits Payment Act was passed in 1980 and came into force the following year. This legislation has the multiple purposes of supplementing the tort system and expanding social welfare and criminal policy by providing benefits to the bereaved families of crime victims killed or victims seriously injured as the result of a crime. The victim benefits system is not intended to make reparation for the damage suffered by victims, but rather to alleviate victim's economic distress by paying a lump sum award. The implementation of this law to the year 2000 has resulted in bereavement benefits being paid to 2,770 crime victims' families; only 86 victims were paid disability benefits. Apparently many victims had been excluded from the benefits system, although they suffered serious injury or disabilities. An amendment to the law in 2001 expanded benefits eligibility to include victims who suffer a relatively light disability. The benefits system does not cover victimization that results from self-defense or justifiable conduct; however, it does not matter whether offenders are criminally responsible for their offending conduct. Victim benefits are not payable to victims who aided, abetted, or provoked criminal conduct by excessive assault, intimidation, or gross insult. In principle, benefits cannot be paid when a blood or marriage relationship exists between victim and offender, thus excluding domestic violence cases. This chapter also discusses provisions for foreign victims in Japan and Japanese victims overseas, the amount of benefits, the application procedure, and statistics on the implementation of the act. Other major sections of the chapter focus on the victim support movement in Japan since the late 1990's, the provision for and implementation of victim notification in the course of criminal proceedings, victim protection in criminal proceedings, victim's participation in criminal justice decisionmaking, the debate over restorative justice, and the activities of nongovernmental victim support organizations. 118 notes


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