National / Crime & Legal

Japan's Supreme Court broadens definition of indecent assault

Kyodo

For the first time in nearly half a century, the Supreme Court on Wednesday changed its interpretation of what constitutes indecent assault, saying a perpetrator can commit such a crime without having sexual intentions.

The top court rejected an appeal from a man who was charged with molesting a girl under 13 and taking nude photographs of her in 2015, but denied having sexual intent.

The decision contradicts a 1970 ruling by the same court. It did not convict a defendant at the time who took nude photos of a woman on the grounds that the accused did not have any sexual intentions.

In the more recent case, the 40-year-old man from Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, had insisted he took the nude photos in response to a request to send pornographic images to an acquaintance from whom he wished to borrow money.

The accused, citing the top court’s 1970 ruling, had appealed a lower court’s ruling that found him guilty of indecent assault and sentenced him to 42 months in prison.

The top court’s 15-member Grand Bench, led by Chief Justice Itsuro Terada, said it’s not appropriate to regard sexual intention as a prerequisite for finding the accused guilty of indecent assault.

“These days, we should consider the damage victims have suffered from the sexual offense, as well as the substance and severity of the crime,” the court said in its ruling.

The Kobe District Court handed down the jail term in March 2016, saying sexual intention was irrelevant to the ruling. The decision was upheld by the Osaka High Court in October last year.