Sending Papers, Reloaded

Almost a year ago, I explained the concept of “sending papers” and its procedural role in prosecuting criminal acts in Japan. I posted on the topic because photographer Kishin Shinoyama was indicted on suspicion of public indecency for shooting photos of nude models in public spaces. (Afternote: In May 2010, the Tokyo summary court found him guilty of public indecency and disrespecting a holy place and ordered him to pay a fine of JPY300,000.)

“Sending papers” has been in the news yet again recently, and today I spotted two stories in English with that expression in the title.

Police may send papers on JCG officer next week
Police will likely send papers on a former navigation officer of the Japan Coast Guard to prosecutors next week for leaking video footage onto the Internet of a Chinese trawler’s collisions with JCG patrol vessels near the Senkaku Islands in early September, sources said Thursday.

Papers sent in airport death of Ghana man
Japanese Police have sent papers to prosecutors on 10 immigration officers in connection with the death of a Ghanaian man whom they subdued immediately before his deportation by plane, it was learned Tuesday.

The last story ends with, “The Chiba prefectural police said sending papers was just a routine step in their standard criminal procedures.” True, but it lacks the explanation and context provided by my post back in January, which I’ll repeat here for clarification:

“Send papers” or “Send papers to prosecutors” is a crude (but accurate) English translation of 書類送検 or shorui souken, a word frequently seen in Japanese news stories.

The word “sending papers” is not actually used by the police or prosecutors and does not appear in any criminal procedure legislation. Those words also have no legal definition. They just describe the legal requirements of the police officers to provide information to prosecutors where they have not arrested someone, or initially arrested them and released them. Prosecutors can, and do, designate that some minor crimes be up to the discretion of the police to process independently, but for all but the most minor crimes, the police are obliged by law to send papers to the prosecutors, and leave the decision of whether or not to prosecute the suspects with the prosecutors.

5 thoughts on “Sending Papers, Reloaded”

  1. Jim Breen gives me “filing charges” as a translation, which sounds quite understandable if probably not legally accurate a term either.

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