TOKYO, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- A man indicted on charges of negligence and assault resulting in the death of his five-year-old stepdaughter told a court in Tokyo Friday that his failure to control his emotions and unsuccessful disciplining had triggered the actions that led to the death of the young girl last year.
In the high-profile child abuse case that has both shocked and horrified the nation, while shedding light on a dark epidemic that is plaguing the country, Yudai Funato, 34, was quoted as telling the Tokyo District Court, "My disciplining was unsuccessful, and I started assaulting her as my anger grew.”
The accused went on to say, "I couldn't control my emotions. I believe it is completely my responsibility."
The charges against Funato state that he assaulted five-year-old Yua at their home in Tokyo's Meguro Ward and deprived her of food from January last year.
In addition, according to the indictment, he failed to take the young girl to hospital for treatment from the assaults and negligence a month later, despite her heath rapidly failing, in a bid to conceal his abusive treatment of his stepdaughter.
Yua died of sepsis after developing pneumonia in March last year as a result of the abuse.
Prosecutors have claimed that prior to Yua's death, Funato had abused his stepdaughter for not living up to his high standards and routinely deprived the girl of sleep.
Funato told the court that on one occasion he had become livid at his young stepdaughter for sleeping when he had instructed her to learn how to tell the time on a clock towards the end of February last year and forced her to wake up at 4:00 a.m.
Having been dragged to the bath by her neck, she was reportedly forced to apologize while being held down and sprayed with cold water from the shower head, the court heard.
Prosecutors said that along with the physical abuse and as a result of not being allowed to go outside and being starved, with Funato admitting that he did not feed her carbohydrates or protein including meat or fish, Yua was emaciated at the time of her death and was bearing 170 injuries on her body.
They also said that notes left behind on pieces of paper by Yua saying “Please forgive me” were indications the child was begging for the abuse to stop.
Yua's mother, meanwhile, Yuri Funato, 27, it has been found, was aware that her young daughter was being abused by her husband at the time.
In September, the Tokyo District Court handed down an eight-year prison sentence for gross neglect, although prosecutors were seeking an 11-year prison sentence for parental neglect, stating that as a parent she had failed to do even the "bare minimum" to protect her daughter’s life.
Yua's death along with the fatal abuse of 10-year-old Mia Kurihara in Tokyo’s neighboring prefecture of Chiba in January this year, also as a result of being physically assaulted and deprived of food and sleep, not only shocked the nation, but also led to the government revising laws banning parents from physically punishing children.
In June, Japan enacted a revised law banning parents and guardians from physically punishing children amid rising cases of abuse.
Along with banning parents, guardians and others legally responsible for caring for children from physically punishing children while attempting to discipline them, the law also requires full-time, in-house lawyers and doctors to be based at child welfare centers so that information and professional expertise can be easily shared.
The revised law also empowers child welfare centers to separate its staff members involved in taking a child into protective custody from those dealing with the child’s parents or guardians.
The number of child welfare and consultations centers is set to be increased, and schools, education boards and welfare centers will be required to adhere to stricter confidentiality requirements, according to the revised law.
This is aimed at better safeguarding abused children and ensuring that abusive parents and guardians cannot coerce institutions into providing potentially damaging information or make decisions that could further put an at-risk child in danger.
The new revised law was instituted amid damning national child abuse statistics and in the wake of the tragic death of Yua.
It was revealed after Yua's death that child welfare centers had not communicated with each other effectively when her family had moved and had been tardy when it came to checking on the young girl’s safety.
Ten-year-old Mia’s abuse case, meanwhile, revealed fundamental flaws in the protocols of institutions and child welfare facilities that allowed for the young girl’s written account of her abuse by her father being handed to him after he coerced her school.
In addition, Mia being returned from protective custody to her abusive parents despite welfare officials knowing she would likely be abused again, revealed a disturbing trend of lax measures by authorities in charge of protecting her.
The government now introducing a ban on parents from physically punishing their children also follows disturbing child abuse figures released in Japan.
According to figures from the National Police Agency (NPA), suspected abuse cases involving minors aged below 18 years old reported by the police to child welfare officials stood at a record-high of 80,104 in 2018.
The figure has not only risen above the 80,000 mark for the first time since comparable data became available and increased by 22.4 percent from a year earlier, but is also more than a 2.8-fold increase compared to figures from five years ago, the NPA said.
The government plans to ensure that the majority of the contents of the revised law will be effective by next April.