TOKYO -- Japan will introduce plea bargaining on June 1, paving the way for prosecutors to obtain evidence against a major participant in a crime from a junior partner in exchange for lighter charges.
The measure is especially aimed at strengthening the prosecution of corporate and financial crime.
The Cabinet on Friday approved an order that fixes the date for the introduction of the amended Code of Criminal Procedure enacted in 2016.
Under a plea bargain, prosecutors drop charges against suspects or defendants, or demand lighter sentences, in exchange for providing evidence against partners in a crime.
The system requires the approval of attorneys before a deal is struck, and the process must be recorded. Both individuals and corporations can enter plea bargains.
Experts, however, point out that it creates the risk of false testimony being used to incriminate innocent individuals.
When the amended code was first enacted, it called for the scope of crimes applicable for plea bargaining to be specified under a Cabinet order, with the exception of certain economic crimes.
Friday's order added a broad range of crimes, such as violation of the Antimonopoly Act, to the list of offenses, in addition to bribery, and narcotics and firearms offenses.
The amendment will make plea bargaining also available in cases of violation of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act, the Copyright Act and other laws relating to intellectual property, and laws governing specific industries, including the Banking Act and the Money Lending Business Act.
It is also hoped that plea bargains will help the prosecution in cases of bribery and other offenses for which it is difficult to gather concrete evidence, without having to rely heavily on the testimony of the defendant.
In anticipation of protests from victims and their families, the law excludes murderers and sex offenders from entering plea bargains.
In Europe and the U.S., plea bargaining is used to encourage defendants to confess their own crimes in exchange for lighter sentences. Japan's system limits its use to building cases against other defendants.
The law incorporates provisions that call for a maximum of five years in prison for individuals giving false testimony to incriminate innocent people, but prosecutors are required to validate any such evidence, experts say.