Top court upholds conviction of psychiatrist for info leak to journalist

May 17, 2012

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal lodged by a psychiatrist over his conviction for leaking investigation records to a journalist in connection with a murder and arson case involving a minor in Nara Prefecture, the top court said Wednesday.
The decision dated Monday means the four-month prison term, suspended for three years, handed to Morimitsu Sakihama, 54, is set to be finalized.

Sakihama's case stirred controversy over the issue of press freedom as the journalist, Atsuko Kusanagi, published a book quoting statements by the 19-year-old defendant obtained from the psychiatrist.

The top court's second petty bench presided over by Justice Yuki Furuta upheld lower court rulings that Sakihama had leaked depositions and other records related to the boy to Kusanagi in October 2006 in violation of the Penal Code.

Sakihama examined the minor's mental status in connection with the murder of three of the boy's relatives who died when their home was torched in June 2006. The criminal code bans professionals such as doctors and lawyers from disclosing confidential information learned during the course of their work.

The psychiatrist's defense counsel argued that the leakage of information did not constitute a crime because psychiatric examination is not a medical practice.

But the top court judged that psychiatric evaluation entails medical judgment and is considered medical practice.

Sakihama could still file for an amendment of the ruling within 10 days, but the country's top court has rarely accepted such requests.

Kusanagi said of the top court's decision, "I still believe that what Dr. Sakihama did was justifiable. It is very regrettable that the appeal was rejected."

Lower courts' rulings determined that Sakihama received the interrogation records from the Nara Family Court and made them available to Kusanagi in October 2006, before she wrote the book titled "I Decided to Kill Daddy" in May 2007.

The boy, the eldest son of a doctor, was sent to a reformatory for murdering his stepmother and two siblings.

The Nara District Court ruled that the leaked information was considered "confidential." The Osaka High Court upheld the ruling in December 2009, which the defendant immediately appealed.



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