Inquiring About Sex Crime Records: Ensuring Children’s Safety Should Be Top Priority

To protect children from sex crimes, it is important to properly implement a newly established system.

The law on the prevention of sexual violence against children was recently enacted, and it includes a system that allows employers who are hiring staff to work in educational settings to inquire with a government agency about whether candidates have a record of committing a sexual offense. Modeled on the British system, it has been dubbed the Japanese version of the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service).

The new Japanese system makes it mandatory for workplaces such as schools and day care centers to check whether teachers and other staff have a history of committing a sexual offense. Private businesses, such as cram schools and sports clubs, can also use this resource. Not only new hires, but also incumbent employees, will be subject to the system.

There have been several confirmed cases in which teachers who had committed sex crimes in the past were again found to have committed indecent acts in educational settings. In a particularly heinous recent case, teachers at a major cram school voyeuristically photographed many of their students.

The establishment of the new system can be said to be the first step in preventing children from becoming victims of despicable sex crimes. Private businesses could benefit from participating in the system, as they can thereby reassure the guardians of children.

If an employee is found to have a history of committing a sex crime, the employer must take steps to reassign the person to a job that does not involve contact with children. Employers may have some difficulty in making decisions, such as whether they can fire the employee.

The government should clarify in guidelines or through other means how the system should be implemented, to avoid confusion in workplaces and the arbitrary use of the system. Records of sexual offenses are extremely sensitive personal information. Strict rules must also be established for the handling of the information.

It will also be important for employers to explain to job applicants in a respectful and through manner that they will inquire with a government agency to check whether they have committed a sex crime in the past.

The new system sets the period for which records of sexual offenses can be checked at a maximum of 20 years after the completion of a sentence, but some within the ruling parties have said it should be made indefinite. In addition, freelance babysitters and private tutors are exempt from such inquiries because they are sole proprietors of their own enterprise.

This law will be reviewed about three years after it comes into effect. It is hoped that issues will be identified during that time to make it a better system.

In addition to preventing recidivism, preventing first-time offenses is also important. To this end, more cram schools are installing security cameras these days. School operators should provide thorough training for staff and establish a system that makes it easier for children and their guardians to consult with schools if they encounter any suspicious behavior by employees.

Being sexually abused by a trusted adult severely traumatizes children both physically and mentally. Such harm must never be repeated.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2024)