Japan is considered a safe country. It is untrue, if once you get involved in the criminal justice system. I will introduce a case I experienced with some modifications I have made to ensure that no one is identifiable.
One day a tourist from Australia, Nancy, called to our office saying that her friend who she was traveling with has been apparently arrested but she didn’t know what was happening to him. She reached to his court-appointed counsel but still understood little because of language barrier with the lawyer. As our office provides legal services for free of one-visitation at the police stations within 23 wards of Tokyo, I decided to go to see her friend Billy with a cheerful and warm message I got from Nancy.
Waiting in a visitation room, I was thinking who Billy was like. Then he came. Billy was a young and very skinny guy. He had a grey sweatshirt and pants, which I knew were provided by the police. His eyeglasses had a sticker stating some number. These clearly indicated me that he hasn’t received anything to wear at the police station, specifically meaning that he had no one who helped him so far.
I listened to him. He was arrested eight days ago. On that day he had a good time in Roppongi and got heavily drunk. He did not remember what happened next. Only what he knows is he was arrested. Later he discovered that he was arrested for entering into a someone’s house. That is all. The judge decided to detain Billy for ten days .
His court-appointed counsel rarely came to see Billy. He never contacted with Billy’s family nor friends. He never brought any warm clothes to his client. These got Billy lost totally. This young Australian didn’t know what he could do during the interrogations without any legal advice. He tried to contact with his mom and his friend Nancy by himself, but the officers in jailhouse prohibited him from sending any letters written in any language other than Japanese. This continued eight days.
When I delivered the message from Nancy, he broke into tears. Then he asked me if Nancy was ok. He cared about his friend even when he himself was under horrible situation. I saw him just very briefly, but I can tell he is such a nice and sweet person.
I explained to him about his situation and his legal rights. He looked relieved. When I was about to leave, he asked me to show the message from Nancy again. I was so moved to see the message literally energizing him so much.
On the following day, I came to know through an email from Nancy that Billy was finally released.