Japan's parliament enacted a bill Wednesday permitting courts to approve the placing of GPS monitors on suspects to prevent international bail jumping, a move spurred by multiple cases such as the high-profile escape of former Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn.

It also approved, as part of criminal law reforms, measures to protect the anonymity of alleged victims of sexual and other crimes to prevent them from their assailants.

The use of GPS devices, which will begin within five years of the promulgation of the revised law, comes despite some opposition on the basis they are potentially an impingement on privacy.

The House of Councillors passes at a plenary session on May 10, 2023, a bill permitting courts to approve the placing of GPS monitors on suspects to prevent international bail jumping. (Kyodo) 

But others argue it may lead to more suspects being granted bail, helping curb excessive periods of detention for which Japan has received criticism.

Ghosn was arrested in 2018 for allegedly underreporting his compensation, but he sensationally jumped bail and fled to Lebanon the following year.

The GPS monitors will be used in cases in which it is feared suspects, such as corporate executives with overseas bases, will flee the country.

Those who remove their monitors without permission or are caught entering court-designated prohibited areas such as airports or seaports will be detained and imprisoned for up to one year under a punishment to be introduced by 2025.

In a related move, criminal penalties will be newly established for suspects who fail to respond to court summons on the trial date or who leave their residence without permission. Such defendants will be subject to imprisonment of up to two years.

To ensure they show up to trial, a new "supervisor system" will require those designated as responsible for the defendants to accompany them. The supervisors must also report on how defendants are faring.

A defendant will be denied bail if the supervisor fails to pay a guarantor's deposit, separately from bail money.

Suspects are currently not required to appear in court during an appeal, but they will be required to do so if they have been indicted for a crime mandating a prison sentence.

If sentenced to time in prison, they will be barred from leaving the country without court permission.

The reforms in criminal procedure were endorsed by the House of Councillors after the bill passed the House of Representatives.

Separately, measures were approved to prevent perpetrators from knowing the personal information of unacquainted victims of sexual crimes and other offenses.

The change involves authorities creating an excerpt made up of documents like arrest warrants and indictments by omitting the victim's name, address and other personal information.

In criminal proceedings, in principle, it is necessary to mention detailed facts about the case, including the names of the victims. But there have been situations in which victims' personal information was obtained by assailants during the procedure.

Efforts have been made to prevent such outcomes, but calls have grown for legal change.

The need for stronger privacy protection was highlighted when a woman was murdered in 2012 by her stalker in Kanagawa Prefecture. When he was arrested the previous year for allegedly blackmailing her, police read him his arrest warrant, which included parts of her name and address.

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Japan to introduce GPS trackers to prevent int'l bail jumping