Washington International Law Journal


Erik Herber


In 2008, a victim participation system was introduced in Japan, which enabled crime victims to participate in criminal proceedings. One of the goals of the system was to correct the wrong done to victims due to their lack of previous involvement, thus giving crime victims what they “naturally desire.” Employing Malcolm Feeley’s analytical framework to make sense of planned legal change, this Article shows that the new system emerged against the background of a combination of international trends: victim activism and public perceptions of crime getting out of hand. It finds that for reasons that are not well understood, only a small percentage of victims have made use of the new system. When it comes to the other courtroom players, judges and prosecutors are generally committed to accommodating participating victims, both formally and in practice. The new system further limits defense lawyers’ room to maneuver, while also presenting new opportunities for lawyers to represent victims and champion their rights. This Article concludes that the new system expresses a continued commitment to protecting victims’ rights and interests, and that the new system contributes to remedying victims’ exclusion from their case, even if the extent to which it succeeds in giving victims what they desire remains uncertain.

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