National / Crime & Legal

11-year sentence sought for mother in Yua Funato child abuse case

Kyodo

Prosecutors sought an 11-year prison term for the mother of a 5-year-old girl who died last year after allegedly being mistreated at home, the latest development in a case that caused a public outcry and changes to child protection laws.

The prosecutors lodged the request Monday at the Tokyo District Court.

Yuri Funato, 27, is accused of causing her daughter’s death from sepsis in March 2018. She had allegedly not adequately fed her daughter, Yua, since around late January that year, resulting in the child developing pneumonia.

According to the indictment, she also failed to take her daughter to a hospital in late February last year when the child’s condition seriously deteriorated from the abuse she had allegedly been subjected to by her father, Yudai Funato, 34. The couple are now divorced.

“(Yua’s) future was taken away … and this is extremely grave,” prosecutors said.

The mother said her daughter’s life “was more important than mine” and she will “take the punishment seriously” for “having left Yua’s mind and body in tatters.”

Yuri Funato’s lawyers have argued she was powerless to stop her husband, as she was also the target of his psychological abuse. The father has been indicted on charges of assaulting his daughter and negligence resulting in her death.

The mother has admitted to parental neglect resulting in the child’s death, telling the Tokyo District Court earlier that she had to obey her husband’s orders to stop her daughter from being harmed.

“I was desperate to follow his orders like a robot,” she said. “I can only keep apologizing to Yua.”

The court will hand down its ruling on the woman on Sept. 17.

Monday’s hearing was delayed by five hours until 3 p.m. due to the powerful typhoon that hit Tokyo and other eastern areas of the country on Sunday night and Monday morning.

According to the prosecutors, Yua wrote her weight and the time of her meals in a notebook from Feb. 8 to Feb. 27 last year after she moved to Tokyo from Kagawa Prefecture.

In the notebook, she also wrote messages such as “Please forgive me,” according to the prosecutors.

Yua’s death on March 2, 2018, in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, attracted nationwide attention and prompted the Diet to revise laws in June this year, banning parents and other guardians from physically punishing children and strengthening the ability of child welfare centers to intervene when abuse is suspected.

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