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TEPCO executives under investigation for charges of professional negligence resulting in death or injury. UPDATE(業務上過失致死傷容疑)

Byjakeadelstein

Apr 4, 2011

The Japanese police continue their investigation into TEPCO, the managing entity of the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor for charges of professional negligence resulting in death or injury. TEPCO announced on April 3rd that the bodies of two Fukushima workers had been found at Fukushima Reactor #1. The bodies were found on March 30th. The announcement came a few days later. The odds are increasing that the final charges will be professional negligence resulting in death. It is not “official” and still in the early stages (内偵捜査段階). However, based on past experience, TEPCO is well-aware of this.  In Japanese the charges are called 業務上過失致死傷 (Gyomujokashitsuchishosho). William Cleary has written a series of excellent articles on the history of professional negligence as a criminal act in Japan, pointing out that “article 211 of the Penal Code provides for a prison term of not more than five years, and a fine of not more than JP¥500,000 for anyone found guilty of committing an act of professional negligence. However, it is quite common for a defendant to receive a suspended sentence, especially in cases of medical malpractice.” The law is explained concisely in the Police Professional Terms Dictionary: 業務上過失致死傷罪:業務上必要な注意を怠り、その結果、人を死傷させた場合、5年以上の懲役(禁固)または100万円以下の罰金と処せられる。(警察実務用語辞典)

The legal precedent to this case was the trial and conviction of six JOC executives in March 2003, for the death of two workers. JOC was a nuclear fuel processing firm. All six executives were convicted but given suspended sentences. In TEPCO’s case, if the charges stick, suspended sentences seem increasingly unlikely. The application of this law is a double-edged sword. While it’s good to see corporate malfeasance punished, most individual are reluctant to incriminate themselves and go to to jail. Therefore, important, but possibly incriminating information, is sometimes withheld when it should be released. Many people are very selfish and hesitate to dig their own graves, even when it means they may bury other people in the process.

There are jurisdictional issues in the current case as to who should lead the investigation: the Fukushima Prefectural Police or the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, since TEPCO has offices in Tokyo and the accident took place in Fukushima Prefecture. It will probably be a joint investigation, but the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department will take the lead. If political involvement becomes an issue, and it may, the Tokyo Prosecutor’s Office will join the investigation or take it over. There have been numerous examples of corporate malfeasance at TEPCO in the past. In this case, the primary act of criminal negligence appears to be building the emergency power generators in an area which any reasonable person could deduce would be flooded, ruining the generators, in case of a large tsunami. Recent news indicates that TEPCO knew this was a possibility years ago but failed to move the generators or act upon this information.

GE was the original designer of the plant so theoretically its possible that they also face criminal investigation but unlikely since so many years have passed since the plant was built.  In that unlikely case, the National Police Agency would have to work in conjunction with US Federal law enforcement.However, it would not be unprecedented for a foreign firm or non-Japanese nationals to be arrested or put under investigation for the above charges,  as was the case of Schindler Elevator. Schindler was investigated by the Tokyo Police, their offices raided,  and the case handed over to the prosecutors. The Schindler Elevator case is a very useful example of the problems that arise when a firm, foreign or Japanese,  handles an accident improperly in the context of  Japanese society and the severe consequences.

Note: The Japan Times is an invaluable site in researching crime and punishment in Japan in English and I’m very grateful they have not put their past articles behind a pay-wall. The Japan Times is short-staffed in these times when the newspaper industry struggles to survive, but they have done and continue to do some excellent reporting. I’m going to get a subscription as as gesture of support.

Nuclear and electric energy are so cute, when they're not incredibly dangerous.
21 thoughts on “TEPCO executives under investigation for charges of professional negligence resulting in death or injury. UPDATE(業務上過失致死傷容疑)”
  1. […] morning, they waited until that Saturday evening to start dousing the reactors with seawater TEPCO executives quietly under investigation for charges of professional negligence resulting in dea… (Quelle etwas fraglich) Videoaufnahme des Tsunami im Meer von einem Schiff der japanischen […]

  2. I want to know what happened to the missing workers at Fukushima Daiichi. Two were reported missing the day of the quake; 2 more a few days ago from the turbine area of reactor #4. Who were they? What happened to them? Also, why hasn’t Tepco released the names of the workers who are attempting to avert a meltdown?

    Jake’s note: Rose, at least two of them, the Daiichi men, were found dead.

  3. […] Japan: In aller Stille hat die japanische Polizei gegen TEPCO (Betreiber der Kernreaktoren) Ermittlungen wegen schweren Fehlverhaltens mit Todesfolgen aufgenommen +++ Japan: Nach Spniat und Milch nun auch radioaktive Austern entdeckt +++ Japan: 9 Tage nach […]

  4. […] Japan: In aller Stille hat die japanische Polizei gegen TEPCO (Betreiber der Kernreaktoren) Ermittlungen wegen schweren Fehlverhaltens mit Todesfolgen aufgenommen +++ Japan: Nach Spniat und Milch nun auch radioaktive Austern entdeckt +++ Japan: 9 Tage nach […]

  5. […] Japan: In aller Stille hat die japanische Polizei gegen TEPCO (Betreiber der Kernreaktoren) Ermittlungen wegen schweren Fehlverhaltens mit Todesfolgen aufgenommen +++ Japan: Nach Spniat und Milch nun auch radioaktive Austern entdeckt +++ Japan: 9 Tage nach […]

  6. […] Japan: In aller Stille hat die japanische Polizei gegen TEPCO (Betreiber der Kernreaktoren) Ermittlungen wegen schweren Fehlverhaltens mit Todesfolgen aufgenommen +++ Japan: Nach Spniat und Milch nun auch radioaktive Austern entdeckt +++ Japan: 9 Tage nach […]

  7. The management of TEPCO should not get charged with this minor charges of neglicence. They should get charged for organised crime, or for terrorism or both

    A management, who is falsifying over the years documents, is clearly not neglicence. It is in my eyes a act of terror, specially when they do not care to kill thousands of people.

    Frank Meier
    Bangkok

  8. Professor Cleary’s reminder will hopefully incite serious response from the people of Japan universally!

  9. Whatever happened to that honourable Japanese tradition of doing the HARIKIRI??? TEPCO execs, what are you waiting for?

  10. Frank, did you mean to say that TEPCO management caused this disaster on purpose? This is not terrorism. Don’t let emotions get in the way of rational though. It *is* negligence and subsequent cover-up. Also, I wonder if we’re going to find out that government regulators knew the extent of what was happening and if any of them will be prosecuted.

    1. Bill,
      I think Frank was kidding. However, I doubt that the government regulators will ever be punished. That would be a miracle.
      I think they knew about the problems but didn’t care. TEPCO should have been nationalized in 2002 when the first scandal broke. Allowing them to use MOX as well was like taking away a five-year old’s loaded revolver and giving him an Uzi to play with instead. Bad idea.

  11. Thank you, Jake, for the nice comment regarding my research on Japanese law, especially that which is related to criminal negligence and corporate responsibility. In the USA, company face the threat of punitive damages by the victims. Japan does not have punitive damages, in fact there is a distain for such. (see:http://www.courts.go.jp/english/judgments/text/1997.07.11-1993-O-No.1762.html) Where the Supreme Court to Japan held that punitive damages ” is against public order of Japan.” It might be time to reconsider this issue.

    1. Mr. Cleary,
      I am greatly honored to have you writing a comment here. I thought your articles on criminal negligence in the Japanese legal system were amazing. I had no idea that the Supreme Court of Japan also put corporate rights before those of regular people. It would be nice to see a day when the victims can extract punitive damages from the corporations–it might make them a little more conscientious. However, the shareholders of a company can sue the management for screwing up. I suppose that isn’t against the public order of Japan, because the share holders have money invested in the company. 地獄も裁判の沙汰も金次第。

      The courts always seem to side for the authorities. The first not-guility verdict under the new jury system was overturned yesterday, showing the system for the farce that it is. Judicial change in Japan will be very slow.

  12. Jake, I sure hope so. There’s enough terrorism creep in the U.S. to make me wonder.

    I’m not a fan of nationalization in most cases, but I can’t really figure out what would change if TEPCO was nationalized. My guess is that a couple of guys would go to jail and nothing would really change. I hope I’m wrong.

    You do good work, man. Keep it up.

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