JIADEP NOTE: A really good decision. Previously, the prosecution did everything it could to protect the police from accountability. Those of us who have researched criminal injustice and police malfeasance really appreciate the gravity of this decision. As I frequently pass over the bridge where the accident (not quite a stampede--just massive crowds pushing against each other), and personally know the head of the bereaved families, this hits close to home!


Ex-police official indicted over stampede under new inquest system

20th April 2010

A former senior police official was indicted Tuesday for allegedly failing to prevent a fatal stampede in 2001 in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture, becoming the first person to be brought to trial under a new prosecution inquest system.

Kazuaki Sakaki, 63, the then deputy chief of the Akashi Police Station, was indicted for negligence resulting in deaths and injuries under a revised law enforced last May to enable a panel of citizens to overturn prosecutors’ decision to effect a mandatory indictment.

The stampede on July 21, 2001, on a bridge overcrowded with fireworks watchers killed 11 and injured 247, but prosecutors had failed four times to indict Sakaki, and the panel gave its second indictment decision on Jan. 27 following another in July last year at the request of the victims’ families.

While making an indictment had been a power given only to prosecutors, the new system enables a panel comprising citizens selected by lottery to have designated lawyers act as prosecutors to indict a person when it judges twice that the person should be charged.

The three lawyers chosen for the task on Sakaki in February were given 19 boxes worth of investigation documents from the prosecutors and conducted additional questioning on him for about three hours last Thursday.

They had intended to make an audio-visual record of the entire questioning process but the idea was rejected by Sakaki and never realized.

Over the accident, two former police officers have been found guilty and are appealing the rulings, while three former city government officials have been convicted.

Nine of the 11 deaths were children aged below 10 and the remaining two were women in their 70s.

Mandatory indictments have also been decided on for three former presidents of West Japan Railway Co over the train crash in Amagasaki in the prefecture in 2005 that killed 107 and injured some 562, and lawyers in charge are preparing for action.

明石の歩道橋事故 元署員らの実刑確定、収監へ