Psychiatry and the criminal justice system in Japan and England

Dr Hiroshi Ihara (MD,DMSc, PhD(Cantab), Robinson College, National Minami Hanamaki Hospital)

Sunday, 22 July, 2001; 7:30-9:30pm

Bowett Room, Queens' College

On June 8, an extremely serious incident happened in Ikeda, Osaka, where a man stormed into a classroom and indiscriminately stabbed pupils and teachers. Eight schoolchildren were killed, and 15 others, including teachers, suffered injuries. This raises fundamental questions about the current way in which the legal system deals with mentally ill offenders.
Section 39 of the Penal Code states "Acquittal on grounds of the absence of sound mind". Therefore, punishment cannot be imposed on those who are not held to be criminally responsible. This legal philosophy is common among industrialised nations, including Britain, Germany and the US. A serious flaw in Japanese legal system, however, lies in lack of judicial consideration given to preventing crime. Once cleared of indictment or found not guilty, those offenders leave the judicial system and their treatment is left up to medical institutions. A system is urgently needed to allow for court control concerning admission to and discharge from a psychiatric hospital for mentally ill offenders.