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TOKYO — The Supreme Court’s First Petty Bench upheld a lower court ruling that sentenced a former massage parlor operator to 11 years in prison and allowed a court to confiscate a video tape in which the defendant secretly filmed sex crimes against his customers inside the establishment.
The decision, dated June 26, dismissed an appeal by Kazuaki Tsuchiya, 48, a former massage parlor operator in the city of Miyazaki, Miyazaki Prefecture in southern Japan, and sentenced him to 11 years in prison for raping and indecently assaulting five female customers.
At issue in the trial was whether a court can confiscate secretly filmed video footage of sex crimes, given that the footage in the case — which involved adult customers of a massage parlor having been filmed inside the establishment — did not itself constitute a crime. This comes in contrast to the fact that secret filming can constitute a violation of a public nuisance prevention ordinance if it was performed in public spaces, and a violation of the Act on Regulation and Punishment of Acts Relating to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, and the Protection of Children if it was committed against those under 18.
While the Penal Code stipulates that a court can confiscate items used in criminal acts, such as weapons in murder cases, it became a focal point of contention whether a court can seize a secretly filmed video tape for which the defendant was not even indicted.
The five justices on the top court’s first petty bench unanimously decided that the video in question can be confiscated by a court as the video can be said to have been used for the crimes. The court recognized that the defendant attempted to escape criminal responsibility by informing victims of the presence of the video and discouraging them from seeking punishment for him.
During the first hearings of the trial at the district court level, it was revealed that the defense counsel for the defendant had suggested to the victims that the secretly filmed video could be discarded if they withdrew their criminal complaints against him. The defense counsel explained that the video was filmed in preparation for possible trouble with customers and that it had nothing to do with the crimes, insisting that the court should not have authority to seize it.
(Japanese original by Naotaka Ito, City News Department)