Psychiatrist in info leak loses appeal

Kyodo

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal lodged by a psychiatrist over his conviction for leaking investigation records to a journalist in connection with a murder and arson case involving a minor in Nara Prefecture.

The decision, dated Monday, means the four-month prison term, suspended for three years, handed to Morimitsu Sakihama, 54, is set to be finalized.

Sakihama’s case stirred controversy over the issue of press freedom after the journalist, Atsuko Kusanagi, published a book quoting statements by the 19-year-old defendant obtained from the psychiatrist.

The Supreme Court’s 2nd Petty Bench, presided over by Justice Yuki Furuta, upheld lower court rulings that Sakihama leaked depositions and other records related to the boy to Kusanagi in October 2006 in violation of the Penal Code.

Sakihama examined the minor’s mental status in connection with the murder of three of the boy’s relatives. They died when their home was torched in June 2006. The criminal code bans professionals such as doctors and lawyers from disclosing confidential information learned during the course of their work.

The psychiatrist’s lawyers argued that the leak did not constitute a crime because a psychiatric examination is not a medical practice.

The Supreme Court judged that psychiatric evaluations entail medical judgments and are considered medical practice.

Sakihama can file for an amendment of the ruling within 10 days, but the court rarely accepted such requests.

“I still believe that what Dr. Sakihama did was justifiable,” Kusanagi said of the top court’s decision. “It is very regrettable that the appeal was rejected.”

Lower court rulings determined that Sakihama received the interrogation records from the Nara Family Court and made them available to Kusanagi in October 2006, before she wrote the book titled “I Decided to Kill Daddy” in May 2007.

The boy, the eldest son of a doctor, was sent to a reformatory for murdering his stepmother and two siblings.

The Nara District Court ruled that the leaked information was considered “confidential.” The Osaka High Court upheld the ruling in December 2009, which the defendant immediately appealed.