Protecting Rights of Crime Victims
In December 2004, the nation's first law protecting the rights of victims in criminal cases was adopted, with New Komeito playing a prominent role in the law's enactment. In the spring of 2007, the law was upgraded to allow victims in a major crime to attend judicial proceedings against the perpetrator and file for monetary restitution in civil court based on the evidence examined in the criminal court trial. The latest revision also lessens the financial burden of victims or their families who seek to file for damages in civil court, with plaintiffs required to pay a flat fee of just 2,000 yen versus 320,000 yen paid in the past for a 100 million-yen suit. New Komeito and its predecessor, the Komeito Party, has worked closely with crime victims, their families, the Japanese bar association and Justice Ministry since 1980, when we began holding hearings on the rights of victims in felony cases.
Free Legal Counseling
Launched in April 2006, a free legal counseling service known as "Ho-terasu" has been a runaway success, winning widespread recognition from users and legal professionals alike. President Seigoh Hirayama of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations cites New Komeito for its creation, noting that the service represents the party's longtime commitment to making the law and legal system more accessible to the general public.
Upgrading the Product Safety Law
Revisions to a 1995 law holding manufacturers liable for the safety of their products went into effect on May 2007, the result of extensive New Komeito lobbying. Among the key changes are to require companies to disclose information on accidents and other safety-related information regarding their products. We also successfully lobbied for regulatory agencies to improve interagency sharing of information on accidents and to devise a more effective means to monitor consumer product safety.
Flesh Trade Crackdown
New Komeito led the effort to make human smuggling and trafficking a crime, working with the Justice Ministry to impose stiffer sentences on offenders by revising the criminal code and immigration law. The ministry complied, and over a two-year period beginning in 2005, the number of victims placed in government custody or returned to their countries of origin fell by some 60 percent. Almost all of the victims are women. A majority come from Southeast Asia and forced to work in the sex industry.
Under a 2007 law that New Komeito played a key role in developing and enacting, homebuilders and real estate developers will be required to purchase insurance or pay into a special government fund to ensure the structural integrity of single-unit houses and condominiums. Buyers would be entitled monetary restitution for defects found within ten years of purchase. The law, which will go into effect in the fall of 2009, is the third of its kind. Other laws have been revised and reinforced to impose harsh new sanctions against fraudulent builders and establish a system to screen defective designs and construction. A related initiative, also sponsored by our party, provides income tax and property tax incentives for homeowners to reinforce homes built before 1981 in order to meet current earthquake resistant construction standards.