The Hiroshima District Court sentenced a 31-year-old man to 15 years in prison Wednesday for fatally abusing his girlfriend’s two children.
Kenichi Takao was convicted of repeatedly abusing 6-year-old Yoshiki Segawa and finally suffocating him in September 1999.
The victim was the son of Mitsuko Segawa, 29, who lived with Takao.
The following month, Takao fatally kicked Segawa’s 4-year-old daughter, Shoko, who died from blood loss.
He dumped the bodies in mountainous areas in Hiroshima Prefecture.
The court sentenced Segawa to eight years in prison later in the day for condoning Takao’s abusive acts.
Presiding Judge Naoki Tanabe said, “The two children suffered unimaginable agony and fear” from the abuse. Yet he denied that Takao had intended to kill them, ruling that the crimes constituted inflicting injuries resulting in two separate deaths.
Tanabe said that, while Takao put the boy in a large plastic bag, he later tried to perform artificial respiration on the victim. The accused “did not intentionally try to cause death,” Tanabe figured.
The court also acknowledged that Takao caused injuries to Shoko resulting in death, rejecting his lawyer’s claim that he could not be held criminally responsible because he was under the influence of drugs at the time.
Prosecutors had demanded life imprisonment for Takao and a 15-year prison term for Segawa, who has pleaded innocent, claiming she had no self-control at the time of the crimes because she had also been abused by Takao.
Abuse revision passes
The Diet on Wednesday approved revisions to the child abuse prevention law, featuring more involvement of child consultation centers and police.
The revised law says child abuse is “an extreme violation of human rights” and calls on national and local authorities to improve the prevention and detection of child abuse and to provide maximum support to the victims.
Child consultation centers are encouraged under the revision to seek help from police, if necessary, to ensure the safety of abused children, while police officers are required to take measures to protect victims.
The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition ally, New Komeito, had proposed allowing police to forcibly enter homes where parents suspected of child abuse have refused to give up their children to local child-care authorities.
However, this was scrapped after opposition parties said it would lead to the abuse of police power.
The law requires members of the public to report suspected child abuse to the authorities even if they have no direct evidence but have found clues, such as bruises on a child’s body.
The revision will be re-examined three years after its enforcement Oct. 1 on such points as how to confirm the safety of children at home and procedures to suspend temporarily the parental rights of offenders.