Judge writes personal letter to teen after High Court battle

BBC

Judge writes personal letter to teen after High Court battleAn envelopeImage copyright

A judge has written a personal letter to a 14-year-old boy explaining why he has rejected his request to move with his father to Scandinavia.

Mr Justice Jackson said he felt the teenager had brought the case to the High Court “as a way of showing your dad how much you love him”.

He told the boy he was “doing well in life” and did not believe that the move abroad would work.

He said: “I am confident that it is the right order for you in the long run.”

Mr Justice Jackson, who is based in the Family Division of the High Court in London, wrote the letter to the teenager which laid down his ruling after a hearing in July.

Sam, not his real name, had applied for permission to live with his father in a Scandinavian country, which his mother and step-father opposed.

The application was later taken over by his dad.

‘Duty by your dad’

In the letter, the judge told the boy he believed “that your feelings are that you love everyone in your family very much, just as they love you”.

However, he noted that Sam’s parents had “very different personalities” and the fact they found it hard to agree was “stressful for you”.

In the letter, the judge said he found Sam’s dad to be someone who was “troubled” and had a “lot of influence over you”.

“All fathers influence their sons, but your father goes a lot further than that. I’m quite clear that if he was happy with the present arrangements, you probably would be too. Because he isn’t, you aren’t.”

He questioned whether the idea for the proceedings came from Sam or his dad and said he believed the teenager had “brought the proceedings mainly as a way of showing your dad how much you love him”.

‘Lost sight’

He told the teenager: “Also, I may be wrong, but when you gave your evidence I didn’t get the feeling that you actually see your future in Scandinavia at all.

“Instead, what I saw was you doing your duty by your dad while trying not to be too unfair to your mum. But you still felt you had to boost your dad wherever you could.

“That’s how subtle and not-so-subtle pressure works. So I respect your views, but I don’t take them at face value because I think they are significantly formed by your loyalty to your father.”

The judge said Sam’s dad had a “manipulative side” and has “in some ways lost sight of what was best” for his son.

He told the boy he had no confidence that a move to Scandinavia would work and hoped his dad would decide to stay in England “for your sake”.

‘Justice was done’

The judge said the evidence showed Sam was doing well in life in England and that he “should make the most of the many opportunities that life here has to offer you”.

He went on: “If, when you finish your A-levels, you want to move to Scandinavia, you will be 18 and an adult – it will be up to you.”

Mr Justice Jackson dismissed his dad’s application to take Sam to live in Scandinavia and for Sam to apply for citizenship there.

He ruled that Sam would have contact with his dad on alternate weekends and any arrangement after he moved to Scandinavia alone would have to be agreed between both parents.

In the letter, he added: “Whatever each of your parents might think about it, I hope they have the dignity not to impose their views on you, so that you can work things out for yourself.”

The judge finished by saying he and Sam’s dad had enjoyed finding out they loved the film My Cousin Vinny – but for different reasons.

“He mentioned it as an example of a miscarriage of justice, while I remember it for the best courtroom scenes in any film, and the fact that justice was done in the end.”

Source:  “Judge writes personal letter to teen after High Court battle”, BBC News, 27 July 2017

Brexit could lead to rise in parental child abductions, warn legal experts

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Brexit could lead to rise in parental child abductions, warn legal experts

‘One year on from the referendum, it is clear it is having an impact on family life’

Brexit could lead to a rise in the number of parents abducting their children and taking them overseas, a law firm has claimed.

Lawyers said the firm had already seen a spike in inquiries from parents about disputes over travel plans and applications for dual citizenship, as well as fears their children would not be returned home from overseas visits.

Cara Nuttall, who specialises in matters relating to children, including abductions, said her firm JMW Solicitors, had received 30 per cent more inquiries in the three months to the end of June compared with the same period last year.

“One year on from the referendum, it is clear that Brexit is having an impact on family life where one or both parents is from the EU,” she said.

“We have seen a significant increase over recent weeks in the number of parents in rocky relationships or who are already separated or divorced seeking advice about their rights to relocate, or to stop the other parent from travelling because they are scared they may not come back with the children.

Ms Nuttall, a partner at the Manchester-based firm, added: ”We have also seen a rise in disputes about applications for foreign nationality and travel documents for children entitled to dual citizenship in fragile international families.

“Some foreign parents feel strongly they want to maximise their chances of being able to return home if things don’t work out, while British parents are concerned about them doing exactly that, and want to make it harder for them to take the children should they wish to do so.”

She also warned it expected to see even more of these cases over the summer months.

She said:  “It is clear that the uncertainty caused by Brexit has led to discussions in these families about the future, leaving some parents feeling extremely vulnerable when they realise they have diverging views.

“The inevitable temptation is to consider taking matters into their own hands and just go.”

Ms Nuttall said the framework in place to deal with parental abductions in Europe might not stay in place after Brexit.

She said: “We simply do not know what the replacement measures will be, nor how well they will work.”

Criminal law commissioner Professor David Ormerod QC said the laws to prevent child abductions were not “fit for purpose”.

“At least 300 British children a year are unlawfully retained overseas and the problem is growing,” he said.

“Whatever the implications of Brexit, we’d urge Parliament to consider our recommendations to double the maximum sentences for these offences to 14 years’ imprisonment and to close a legal loophole around the wrongful detention of children abroad.”

It comes as multiple reports suggested the UK would maintain free movement for EU citizens for up to four years after Brexit.

Theresa May is ready to offer free movement for two years, according to The Times, while The Guardian quoted a senior cabinet source as saying the period could last for three or even four years.

Philip Hammond was said to be confident he has won support within the Cabinet for a transition to prevent disruption to business caused by a sudden “cliff-edge” move to new arrangements on 29 March 2019, when Britain is set to leave the EU.

Additional reporting by Press Association

Source:  “Brexit could lead to rise in parental child abductions, warn legal experts”, The Independent, 25 July 2017

UK Foreign Secretary in Japan

Again, and as highlighted by me in the past, there has been a further high level visit by our Foreign Secretary to Japan and despite all the larking about, the issue of international parental child abduction continues to be off the Foreign Office’s agenda despite Japan’s continued failings.  There is hardly a better person in contemporary UK politics to ratchet up awareness of an issue of such importance and, yet again, Foreign Office officials have failed to brief a Foreign Secretary on it:

The Telegraph

From Maybot to robot: Boris Johnson meets face of state-of-the-art technology on visit to Japan

Boris Johnson has worked alongside the Maybot – the rather unflattering nickname given to the Prime Minister – so he seemed completely at ease trying out his oratory skills on a state-of-the-art robot on a diplomatic visit to Japan. The robot, however, looked hard to impress.

The Foreign Secretary touched down on Thursday for top-level cyber security, defence and trade talks.

He stopped for a photo opportunity with a humanoid robot at the Research Institute for Science and Engineering in Tokyo.

Boris Johnson interacted with a robot in Japan
Boris Johnson interacted with a robot in Japan CREDIT: AP PHOTO/EUGENE HOSHIKO, POOL

 He shook hands with the robot, named Wabian2, before striking a series of poses.

The robots he saw were developed to help in disaster situations and with healthcare.

The Foreign Secretary said: “I have come to Japan to build on our historic relationship, which is based on common values, support for democracy, human rights and free and open markets.

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, Pool
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/EUGENE HOSHIKO, POOL

“Japanese companies invest more than £40 billion in the UK and our commercial relationship is stronger than ever. We do great work together on everything from defence and security to education, research and innovation.

“As London Mayor I had the privilege and honour to see up close how dramatically the Olympic and Paralympic Games unified and lifted our great capital, and I am excited for the people of Tokyo that they will soon experience the magic that the Olympics brings.

REUTERS/Eugene Hoshiko
CREDIT: REUTERS/EUGENE HOSHIKO

“I’m proud that our world-leading expertise in staging major events will help to forge an even stronger UK-Japan partnership ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games.”Source:  “From Maybot to robot:  Boris Johnson meets face of state-of-the-art technology on visit to Japan, The Telegraph, 20 July 2017 

When open minds fight closed courts in Japan

Open justice: Lawrence Repeta challenged court restrictions on note-taking and established a precedent studied by Japanese law students today.

| COLIN P.A. JONES
Issues | LAW OF THE LAND
When open minds fight closed courts in Japan
by Colin P.A. Jones
Special To The Japan Times

 

Jul 16, 2017

 

On Nov. 28, 2016, the Nagoya High Court overturned the acquittal of Hiroto Fujii, mayor of the Gifu city of Minokamo, sentencing him to 18 months imprisonment with labor, suspended for three years. Elected in 2013 at the age of 28, he remains Japan’s youngest mayor.
Fujii ran as an independent, defeating an candidate backed by the Liberal Democratic Party who was twice his age. He joined the LDP shortly after winning, but they expelled him the same day he was arrested for allegedly taking bribes from a businessman in connection with the installation of a school water system. It should be disheartening — but not surprising — that the party which rules the country apparently equates being arrested with being guilty.

 

The principal evidence against Fujii was testimony from the businessman who allegedly bribed him. Conveniently for prosecutors, he had already been arrested and convicted for the bribery and an unrelated fraud, a crime that literally involves lying to people. Finding the witness lacking in credibility and his account of sneaking cash to Fujii implausible, the Nagoya District Court acquitted the young mayor.
On appeal by prosecutors, the high court managed to decide that the convicted fraudster was more credible than either the mayor or the witness whose testimony supported his innocence. Not only that, the esteemed high court judges supposedly made this evaluation based solely on the record of the lower court proceedings. They did hear testimony from the fraudster, but this turned out to have been tainted (and thus unusable) because he had inexplicably received a copy of the district court’s decision. This meant he and prosecutors had months to iron out discrepancies before testifying again to the high court, which, supposedly unaffected by this testimony, nonetheless found him credible based just on the record of the lower court proceedings. The high court never bothered to hear testimony from the mayor and his witness before essentially deciding both were lying.
The citizens of Minokamo apparently have a different view; Fujii was re-elected mayor in May. He ran unopposed, so popular despite his conviction that apparently no other parties thought it worth standing opposition candidates. Now on appeal before the Supreme Court, his case offers a cautionary tale for young people who challenge Japan’s wrinkly-faced establishment. It is also a sad reminder of how low one should set expectations of the nation’s criminal justice system. This is not just because of the result at the high court, but because the process started with a judge rubber-stamping a democratically elected sitting mayor’s arrest and prolonged detention, the latter on the farcical grounds that he was a flight risk. In just a few days an astounding 40 percent of Minokamo voters signed a petition calling for him to be released on bail.
Just as with all trials, Fujii’s was about competing narratives — his and the prosecutors’. Judges are supposed to balance the evidence and decide which is true. Yet apart from the testimony and other evidence submitted in the courtroom, at a higher level there is also a separate narrative playing out about whether trials themselves are being conducted fairly. Authoritarian institutions and marketing executives both appreciate that controlling narratives such as these is critical.
Judicial efforts to control the narrative played out in a shocking fashion in Fujii’s case. By law, the judgment of a court in a criminal case must be read to the defendant in open court, though it may take several days from being requested for a formal written judgment to be delivered to the defendant and his lawyers. In high-profile cases, however, courts have a practice of issuing a summary of the judgment to the media so they can report on it immediately.
In Fujii’s case, accredited media were given a 60-page “summary” of the high court’s decision the day it was rendered. At the same time, the same court refused to give Fujii’s counsel the same summary — that was for the media only. The defendant and his lawyers were supposed to wait until the official judgment was ready. This left them (and the government of Minokamo) to field questions from journalists who were better equipped with information about the judgment than they were. Control of information is a source of power — both to criticize and prevent criticism. Japanese courts — like all government institutions — know this very well.
Which brings me to why we should all be sorry to see Lawrence Repeta leaving Japan.

 

Larry is a friend of mine and was, until recently, a law professor at Meiji University. Had you been sitting in the public seats at the Nagoya High Court when it reversed Fujii’s acquittal, you could have pulled out a memo pad and — like Fujii’s lawyers — frantically tried to take notes as the judgment was read out. If you had done so, you would owe a debt of gratitude to Larry Repeta.
When I first observed a Japanese criminal trial, courthouses had signs on the walls saying “Taking notes prohibited.” This didn’t apply to everyone, though: Journalists accredited to the court’s “press club” could do so, but other observers could not. Press clubs are an omnipresent narrative control device in Japan; journos who write anything too critical of the institution can have their accreditation revoked, losing access to precious information. Members of the general public are not subject to this sort of control.
Larry first came to Japan in the early 1980s as a young lawyer and researcher. He encountered the ban on note-taking when trying to observe the trial of a bubble-era stock promoter for tax fraud. Repeated requests to the presiding judge for permission were rejected without explanation. Aided by the Japan Civil Liberties Union, he brought suit on the grounds that the prohibition on note-taking violated the Japanese Constitution’s guarantee of open courts, freedom of expression and equal protection. To a young American-trained lawyer, it seemed so obvious.
As so often seems to be the case in Japanese constitutional litigation, Larry won by losing, with all but one of the Supreme Court’s 15 judges acknowledging that “note-taking by spectators in the courtroom is worth respecting and should not be hindered without due reasons,” although such behavior was nonetheless subject to “restrict(ions) or prohibit(ions) if it interferes even slightly with the administration of the fair and smooth trial proceedings in the courtroom.”
Declining to find any clear constitutional violation (and, in my view, fudging on equal protection by simply declaring it reasonable to give journalists special privileges), the court rejected his appeal while at the same time declaring that permitting note-taking should be the rule rather than the exception. This was driven home when the Supreme Court’s General Secretariat issued a directive to courts throughout the country to permit note-taking by spectators. That the court’s administrators are able to issue edicts to judges about how to conduct trials is one of the lesser-known but vaguely disturbing aspects of Japan’s judicial system.
Nonetheless, Larry’s case wrought change, though not through law but through narrative, by establishing a high-profile negative story about closed courts — Larry embarrassed the judiciary into submission. In this respect it probably helped that he was a conspicuous Westerner, though it would be nice if more Japanese people had been — still are — embarrassed that it took a foreigner to care enough to fight for this right.
Despite the technical result, Larry’s case was regarded as a great victory. It is one of the basic precedents studied by Japanese law students. Thanks to his efforts, research on trial practice and citizen monitoring of judicial behavior is easier, and an entire new genre of nonfiction exists — books based on watching trials, and more recently court-watching bloggers. Larry is rightfully a folk hero among progressives, civil libertarians and others who care about informational justice, a field he has devoted himself to since becoming an academic. He has also published countless articles on Japanese law (including a book chapter for which I was co-author).

 

Retired from his teaching position in Japan, Larry returns to Seattle, where he graduated from law school and once practiced as a lawyer. Before his departure we caught up over beer in Kyoto. Asked to reflect on what had changed in the 35 years since he first started asking questions about Japan’s criminal justice system, his response was: “The saiban’in (lay judge) system has been introduced and there have been some other changes, but the fundamental rules have not changed, and they are the rules of an authoritarian system where the presumption of innocence is denied.”
The defendant in the trial where he had tried to take notes was ultimately acquitted of the principal charge yet ended up being detained for over two years during the course of a trial that lasted four. Prolonged deprivations of freedom regardless of guilt or innocence remain a foundation of the criminal justice system.
We discussed the case of Okinawan anti-base activist Hiroji Yamashiro, recently released on bail after five months’ pre-trial detention for relatively minor charges. I asked about right-wing criticism about Yamashiro’s activities being too unruly and aggressive. Larry’s response was: “Without civil disobedience in America, where would African-Americans be today?” This may seem very American, but all too often in Japan the expectation — unspoken requirement — that people be polite and obedient can be the opening for all sorts of rights-infringement scenarios, whether involving government use of land or questioning by police.
In any case, at Yamashiro’s trial people will be able to watch, take notes and debate their own evaluations of the evidence against him. For that, thank you again, Larry Repeta.
Colin P.A. Jones is a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto. The views expressed are those of the author alone. Send your comments and story ideas to community@japantimes.co.jp.

Source:  “When open minds fight closed courts in Japan”, Colin Jones in The Japan Times, 16 July 2017

Senate confirms Hagerty as new U.S. ambassador to Japan

The Japan Times

 / 

Senate confirms Hagerty as new U.S. ambassador to Japan

AP, KYODO, JIJI

The Senate has confirmed Tennessee businessman William Hagerty as President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Japan.

Senators voted 86-12 Thursday to approve Hagerty’s nomination.

Hagerty, 57, is expected to take up the post in August, according to a source familiar with Japan-U.S. relations.

He will serve in Tokyo at a time when the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region has become increasingly severe amid China’s military buildup and territorial ambitions in the East and South China seas, as well as North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles that could strike as far as the United States.

In light of Trump’s calls for “fair” trade, Hagerty, who served as a key member of the Trump transition team, is expected to call for greater market access for U.S. products in Japan as part of an effort to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with the country.

“We sincerely welcome the confirmation,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference, pointing out that Trump has great trust in Hagerty.

“We hope to strengthen bilateral ties to ensure that the Japan-U.S. alliance, which is a cornerstone for Japan’s foreign and security policies, is unwavering,” the top government spokesman said.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also welcomed the Senate vote, saying, “We’re looking forward to having him join Japan as our next U.S. ambassador.”

“He spent a good deal of time over there. I know he’s steeped in the issues,” Nauert told a news briefing.

In a Senate confirmation hearing on May 18, Hagerty reaffirmed Washington’s “ironclad” commitment to its alliance with Tokyo, calling it “the cornerstone of regional peace and security” and “a platform for global cooperation.”

The ambassador-in-waiting underlined the United States’ “unwavering” commitment to the defense of the Senkaku Islands, a group of islets administered by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan, in accordance with the Japan-U.S. security treaty.

Hagerty stressed the need for close coordination with Japan and trilaterally with South Korea in pressing North Korea “to abandon its unlawful nuclear, ballistic missile and proliferation programs.”

On the economic front, Hagerty pledged to help increase U.S. exports to Japan in areas such as agriculture, defense and manufacturing including automobiles.

He added that U.S. exports of energy such as liquid natural gas to Japan could significantly cut into the trade deficit.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee gave its OK to Hagerty last month after he satisfied Democrats that he had no role in the screening of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser.

Flynn is a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Congressional committees also are examining Moscow’s election meddling.

Hagerty was director of presidential appointments for Trump’s transition team. But he told Democrats he focused on Cabinet picks and not White House staff aides.

Hagerty is a founder and managing director of Hagerty Peterson & Co., a private equity investment firm in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hagerty built ties with Japan through a three-year posting to Tokyo from the late 1980s to early 1990s while working for the Boston Consulting Group, and in his work as commissioner of economic development for Tennessee from 2011 to 2015.

Meanwhile, Joseph Young, who has served as director for Japanese affairs at the State Department, is also slated to arrive in Japan next month to assume the post of deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.

Source:  “Senate confirms Hagerty as new US ambassador to Japan”, The Japan Times, 14 July 2017