Jurisdiction at the Family Court
All juvenile trials are held in the Family Court except for reverse-referred cases and dropped cases. Juvenile offenders are categorized into three classes (“juvenile criminals,” “child offenders,” and “juveniles liable to commit a crime”). The Family Court proceedings involving juveniles generally commence when: (1) a judicial police officer or public prosecutor sends a juvenile case to the court; (2) a prefectural governor or chief of the Child Guidance Center refers a juvenile case to the court; (3) a Family Court probation officer who has found a juvenile offender reports the case to the court; or (4) someone who is in charge of the protection of a juvenile (e.g., school teacher) informs the court of the case. The juvenile offender is committed to his own home or a juvenile classification home after the case is referred to a Family Court. The Family Court judge takes the investigation report and the classification report from the juvenile classification home into consideration in the decision of protection for the juvenile offender (Toshio 2015). The judge’s determination may take one of several forms. It is made on the basis of the Family Court probation officer’s report, the judge’s own research and inquiry, and the results of the hearing. The possible forms are as follows: (1) a decision to refer the case to the competent prefectural governor or the chief of the Child guidance center (this action is taken when it is deemed that the juvenile should be dealt with under the Child Welfare Act rather than be placed under protective measures); (2) a decision to dismiss the case (in cases where the court finds it unnecessary to recommend any particular disposition of the juvenile); (3) a decision to refer the case to the public prosecutor; or (4) a decision to place the juvenile under protective measures. According to Article 24(1) of the Juvenile Law, there are three kinds of protective measures: (1) the juvenile is placed on probation under the purview of the probation office; (2) the juvenile is placed in a support facility to develop skills related to self-care and self-sustaining (Jidojiritsushien-shisetsu) or in a home for defendant children (Jidoyogo-shisetsu) (both of these institutions are provided for under the Child Welfare Act); and (3) the juvenile is placed in a juvenile training school (Shonen-in).
Adults who have committed special acts injurious to the welfare of juveniles are subject to the Family Court jurisdiction as well. The specific offenses are set out in the Child Welfare Act, the Labor Standards Act, the School Education Act, among other places. The purpose of the jurisdiction over these crimes is the protection of juveniles and the maintenance of juveniles’ basic human rights.