SAITAMA – Saitama Prefecture was slapped Wednesday with a court order to pay 5.5 million yen in damages to the parents of a college student who was stalked and murdered in 1999 at a train station after police failed to act on her complaint and instead covered it up.
In their 110 million yen damages suit against prefectural authorities, the parents of Shiori Ino, 21, said police did not act on the criminal complaint filed by their daughter and later falsified it. Three officers have been convicted over the falsification.
Although in his ruling presiding Judge Tamio Hirota of the Saitama District Court denied the link between the failure of police to investigate her complaint and Ino’s slaying, he ordered the prefecture to pay the compensation because it had “betrayed” her trust.
“(The response of the Saitama police to the victim’s complaint) was extremely insincere, and thus illegal,” Hirota said.
Ino’s parents indicated they would appeal the ruling, saying the court’s decision is unacceptable because it doesn’t acknowledge the link between the police negligence and their daughter’s death.
“We appreciate the court’s decision that citizens’ expectations and trust in police should be protected under the law, but the ruling ignores the main point (of the parents’ argument),” said one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
The Saitama police meanwhile said they will carefully examine the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.
Ino was being stalked and harassed by her ex-boyfriend, Kazuhito Komatsu, 27, with whom she had broken off a relationship in 1999.
She had filed a criminal complaint that July after Komatsu started harassing her to go out with him again and began distributing fliers near her home — with the help of other men — that libeled Ino.
She was stabbed to death in a knife attack Oct. 26, 1999, outside JR Okegawa Station by four men, including Komatsu’s brother, Takeshi, 36.
The younger Komatsu, who had owned an entertainment parlor, apparently committed suicide while police were hunting for him. He was found dead in a Hokkaido forest in January 2000.
The three other men were sentenced to between 15 and 18 years in prison, and Takeshi Komatsu is still being tried on various charges, including murder.
Ino’s slaying helped spark public debate about how police investigated stalking cases and served as a catalyst to the enactment of an antistalking law in November 2000.
Ino’s father, Kenichi, and mother, Kyoko, both 52, filed the suit under the government redress law in December 2000.
They claimed the lax manner in which the police handled their daughter’s case emboldened her murderers to commit the crime.
The prefecture denied being responsible, claiming that police saw no need for urgency in Ino’s case and that even if they had taken it up, their daughter could still have been murdered.
It argued that police had no legal obligation to prioritize Ino’s case and there was no real danger felt by Ino and her family at the time.
The prefecture’s argument contradicts an April 2000 police investigative report that admits officers acted inappropriately and failed to recognize the seriousness of Ino’s complaint.
Saitama police came under fire over their inaction, after Ageo Police Station officers in Saitama doctored Ino’s formal investigation request in an attempt to cover up their failure to act on the stalking complaint.
The prefecture also said that based on prefectural police documents, Ino lived a “wanton” life, with a penchant for expensive gifts and disdain for rules.
The parents protested these insinuations about their daughter’s morals, noting that even after her death she was still being defamed.
After the ruling, Yusuke Awano, chief of the personnel and training bureau of the Saitama Prefectural Police, released a statement apologizing for “inappropriateness in the police investigation” into Ino’s case.
Awano said the police will carefully examine the ruling and consult with relevant authorities before deciding whether to appeal.
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