In 2008 a man was accused of grabbing a woman from behind, which resulted in an injury to her leg. She filed charges with the prosecutor’s office for indecent assault and bodily harm but the man was eventually found innocent.
As indecent assault can be a hard accusation to get off from in Japan, this man would be considered extremely lucky. However, after all charges were dropped, he decided to try his luck again and sued the government for 12 million yen (US$116,000) in compensation for the charges. He would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t for the Supreme Court of Japan who dismissed his claims for the last time on 6 March.
Was this man an innocent victim of the system or just looking for a quick pay day? The answer is not so clear.
The woman first filed charges with a public prosecutor in April of 2008 claiming that this man touched her inappropriately, which led to a leg injury while walking along the street in Takatsuki City, Osaka. During a police investigation she was able to recount the events and give a detailed description of the man in question. She could also pick out his photo from a group of images.
They went to trial and in February of 2009 the man was found not guilty by the Osaka District Court as there seemed to be a lack of evidence to support the woman’s claims. Following this, the man sued the government on the grounds that he was illegally charged for a crime that could have serious negative impact on his life.
In 2010 the Osaka District Court dismissed the man’s claim and he then appealed to the Osaka High Court. This time the judgment was in favor of the man. The High Court ruled that there were some improper procedures leading up to the man’s prosecution. For example, it was revealed that when the woman was asked to identify the perpetrator based on pictures, the police had put his image in twice when all other pictures were included only once.
Not only that, but according to the High Court’s ruling “on top of the possibility of the investigation being led, at the time of the incident the woman was quite intoxicated. This shows some fault in the basis that the prosecutor had decided to indict on.” This decision was also appealed and passed on to the Supreme Court of Japan who would later rule against the man declaring, “the prosecutor made a reasonable judgment at the time of the indictment.”
The reaction online seems to have largely fallen on the side of the man in this case. Some railed against women in general saying, “We are seriously done for. Women shouldn’t have equality” to which someone replied, “Women already don’t have equality, you can be guilty without evidence if a woman testifies against you.”
Some other comments include:
“This story is really irritating. The justice system in Japan doesn’t give a damn about people after they’ve been falsely accused.”
“This is the true opposite of male chauvinism. If a woman files a complaint the man loses. This is today’s world.”
“We need men-only train cars.”
“Japan has become a country that prosecutes without evidence. Way to go!”
“Oh! I just had a great idea. Start up a false molestation accusation insurance plan! It’ll make a killing!!”
“They should pay him compensation.”
“False accusations are scary. Even if you turn out to be innocent later, you’re socially damaged to a state that you can never recover from.”
“I actually seriously thought about making false accusation insurance but it was impossible. It’s too open to collusion since there is no risk for the woman.”
Although most came out in favor of the man, it seemed many were speaking about their own fears while riding the train rather than the facts of this particular case. There were also sporadic comments against the acquitted man such as “Oh yeah! Compensation to pay the pervert bastard who got acquitted by knowing how to use a lawyer well.”
With limited facts of the case reported in the media, it’s difficult to say who is lying about what, but we know someone must be. Everyone in this scenario seems to have reasonable doubt, but on the whole there is certainly a problem in Japanese society. You could argue that men’s fear of getting falsely accused of molestation actually balances out the woman’s fear of getting molested on the street or in the train, creating some sort of twisted equality. It could be true but as the old saying goes: two wrongs don’t make a right.