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!

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Ex-police official indicted over stampede under new inquest system


20th April 2010
KOBE

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



 兵庫県明石市で2001年7月、11人が死亡、247人が重軽傷を負った歩道橋事故で、最高裁第一小法廷(横田尤孝裁判長)は、業務上過失致死傷の罪に問われた元明石署地域官・金沢常夫被告(60)と、警備会社「ニシカン」(現ジェイ・エス・エス)元大阪支社長・新田敬一郎被告(68)の上告を棄却する決定をした。5月31日付。両被告を禁固2年6カ月とした一、二審の実刑判決が確定し、収監される。

 事故をめぐっては、神戸地検が当時の明石署員や明石市幹部ら5人を起訴。金沢、新田両被告をのぞく3人は執行猶予付きの有罪判決が確定している。また、検察が起訴しなかった当時の明石署副署長は今年4月、全国で初めて検察審査会の判断により強制起訴された。

 決定で第一小法廷は、04年12月の一審・神戸地裁と07年4月の二審・大阪高裁が示した事実認定を踏襲し、警察と警備会社それぞれの現場責任者の立場で、夏祭り警備の指揮をとった両被告の刑事責任を改めて検討。「両被告の指示や要請によって警察官が出動していれば、歩道橋に流入する人を規制でき、事故は回避できた」と述べ、業務上過失致死傷罪の成立を認めた。

 判決によると、事故は01年7月21日午後8時40〜50分、花火大会の会場となった大蔵海岸とJR朝霧駅を結ぶ歩道橋(長さ約100メートル、幅約6メートル)上で発生。会場に向かう人波と駅に戻る人波がぶつかった末、多くの人が折り重なる「群衆雪崩」が起き、11人が圧死するなどした。

 金沢被告は検察が起訴したただ一人の警察官。二審判決は「結果のすべてを起訴された被告だけの落ち度にして責めるのは酷に過ぎ、公平の観点から正義に反する」と述べ、地検が不起訴処分とした明石署幹部らの刑事責任についても言及していた。

 金沢被告の弁護側は「職場を放棄せず、職責を遂行したことからすれば実刑は重すぎる」などと主張。新田被告の弁護側は「民間警備会社の権限は限られており、警察官と同じ刑は重すぎる」などと主張していた。(延与光貞)