Lawyers' co-op to provide bail bond to help defendants gain release
Mainichi Japan) December 2, 2011
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japan Federation of Bar Associations will launch a bail bond system as early as next July under which the Japan Lawyers Cooperative can act as a guarantor for defendants who are financially incapable of posting their own bail while awaiting trial upon criminal charges, federation officials told Kyodo News Friday.

"It is terribly unfair that whether one can be released on bail or not is determined by economic clout," an official said. "By widening the scope of those who can be released on bail and thus reducing unnecessary custody, the new system can also help cut down on government labor costs at detention facilities."

For a nonrefundable fee of 2 percent of the sum of the bail, the cooperative, also known as Zenbenkyo, will post bail for up to 3 million yen by submitting to court a written promise to pay the required amount should the defendant fail to fulfill the terms of the bond, such as by fleeing or destroying evidence.

The federation hopes the new system, to be introduced following discussion with the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice, will help boost release on bail from the current rate of around 18 percent to about 50 percent of those indicted and held by law enforcement officials.

The defendant's family or other interested party making the contract with Zenbenkyo will also have to place a deposit equivalent to 10 percent of the bail, which will be returned at the end of trial proceedings if bond conditions are met.
However, should the defendant jump bail, the party to the contract will be billed after the cooperative pays the full amount of bail to the court.

The Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that those eligible for bail can be released upon payment by cash by the defendant, or submission of a bail bond by a lawyer or other parties. The latter, however, has rarely been put into practice.

Of the 65,000 defendants held in custody in Japan in fiscal 2010, about 12,000 were released on bail, according to government statistics.

While many of those who were refused bail are believed to be those seen as at high risk of absconding, the federation said it estimates that about 20,000 could not obtain release due to their inability to pay the bail.

"It is a problem that release on bail is, as a matter of fact, realized only for defendants with financial capability," an experienced court judge said on condition of anonymity.

According to a law firm, the average bail for drug-related charges is around 1.5 million yen while that for serious traffic accidents like hit-and-run and drunk driving is usually over 3 million yen.

Meanwhile, it is not uncommon for some politicians and heads of major corporations to pay several hundred million yen in bail to be released from custody in various company- or finance-related cases.