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NARA (Kyodo) The Nara District Court found a psychiatrist guilty Wednesday of leaking investigative records from a deadly arson in Nara Prefecture to a freelance journalist in what is believed to be the first ruling on unlawful disclosure of confidential information.

Morimitsu Sakihama, 51, was handed a suspended four-month prison term for leaking the records to journalist Atsuko Kusanagi, 44, in October 2006. The records concerned a teenager who torched his home that June, killing his stepmother and two siblings.

Prosecutors were demanding a six-month prison term in the case, which stirred national debate over free speech.

According to the Supreme Court, the courts have made no decisions on unlawful disclosure of confidential information since it started keeping records in 1978.

The Penal Code bans doctors, lawyers and medical and religious workers from leaking information obtained from work without justification.

Sakihama showed copies of the depositions on the teenager, who is now 19, and documents on his father to Kusanagi between around Oct. 5 and Oct. 15, 2006. He conducted a psychiatric evaluation on the teen, whose father is a doctor, and showed a copy of the test results to the journalist.

The psychiatrist received the depositions from the Nara Family Court, which decided on Oct. 26, 2006, to send the teenager to a reformatory after Sakihama concluded the boy was suffering a pervasive developmental disorder.

Sakihama’s counsel said he is not the type of doctor who would be subject to a confidentiality rule, since the evaluation he conducted was not intended to cure the teenager.

They also maintained that Sakihama had a legitimate purpose in trying to reveal that the teenager, who was 16 at the time of the arson, did not have murderous intent.

However, prosecutors argued Sakihama should have been bound by the confidentiality obligation and accused him of “selfishly” disclosing the information without fully considering the privacy of the teen and his family.

Kusanagi wrote the book “I Decided to Kill Daddy,”citing materials provided by the psychiatrist in May 2007, triggering a protest from the Nara Family Court the following month and the arrest of Sakihama in October 2007.

Even though Kusanagi was not charged with leaking information, she parted with journalism conventions and told the court Sakihama was her source.

Kusanagi said she testified to support Sakihama, who pleaded not guilty and maintained his action was legal.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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