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Judge arrested for allegedly stalking woman
Japan Times May 23, 2008

A 55-year-old Utsunomiya District Court judge was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of stalking a woman in her 20s.

However, the judge has denied to police his actions were motivated by his feelings for the woman, sources said Thursday.

Yoshiharu Shimoyama is accused of repeatedly sending e-mails from Internet cafes to the woman in Yamanashi Prefecture between February and March, pressing her to meet him.

According to police, some of the e-mails read: "When can I see you next?" or "Do you work on weekends?"

Shimoyama has admitted sending the e-mails but denied he was seeking to start a relationship with the woman, the sources said.

He was serving as chief of the Tsuru branch of the Kofu District and Family Court at the time the e-mails were sent, according to police.

The woman alerted police in March that e-mails had been sent to her by an unknown person, prompting them to launch an investigation.

Antistalking law seen falling short
Victims hit new legislation, inaction toward domestic violence
Japan Times Sept. 3, 2000

KOBE -- An antistalking law that cleared the Diet in May and goes into effect in November is being called insufficient, and speakers at a recent symposium here are calling for new, tougher legislation and urging police to change their attitudes about stalking.

A representative from a citizens' group that supports stalking victims, a man whose sister was killed last year when her former boyfriend stalked her in a car and crashed into a vehicle she was in, and lawyers who have taken a special interest in such cases all voiced concerns about loopholes in the law.

The law includes provisions for prison terms of up to six months or fines of up to 500,000 yen for individuals against whom stalking complaints have been filed and who fail to cease the harassment after receiving a police warning.

Penalties can be doubled for any stalker who then violates a desist order issued by a prefectural public safety commission.

The law's enactment is attributed to rising stalking complaints to police.

According to a survey by the National Police Agency released in May, police received more than 8,000 complaints about stalkers in 1999, up by 2,000 from 1998.

But police have been criticized for failing to take the complaints seriously. In some cases, even when the victim has complained to police, the case has escalated to murder.

Yukako Onoi was one such victim. She was killed by her former boyfriend in February 1999 at age 20.

Although she and her family made repeated requests to local police in Hyogo Prefecture from December 1998 that they take action -- even going so far as to present them with a medical certificate showing evidence of physical abuse at the hands of her ex-boyfriend -- police had the man only make a written promise not to beat her again.

Hyogo Prefectural Police punished the officers on July 28 for negligence.

Speaking at the symposium organized by the Kobe-based Domestic Violence Prevention Center, Onoi's brother, Hiroyuki, said he feels unbearably burdened with the thought that Yukako might have not been killed if police had taken appropriate action.

Fumi Akioka, a writer and translator who set up a citizens' group for stalking victims in 1997 in Yokohama, said Onoi's case bears many similarities to cases of domestic violence in which an offender repeatedly assaults and apologizes.

Yukiko Tsunoda, a lawyer who has set up a network of lawyers for sexual violence lawsuits, said police often treat domestic violence as a private matter between a couple and fail to treat it as a social problem.

"Such an attitude is also seen in stalking cases. When police find that a stalker is a former boyfriend or the divorced husband of a victim, they back off," Tsunoda said.

Tsunoda is concerned that the new law still lets police decide whether a complaint constitutes stalking. The law defines stalking as repeated harassment of a person, motivated by an emotional attachment or a grudge born of unrequited love.

Tsunoda said many stalking cases may not fall strictly under that definition, and that the new law cannot be used effectively unless police change their attitudes toward domestic violence.

"Although the NPA said last year that it will intervene in such cases, I see no changes in attitude among local police officers," Tsunoda said. "(The police force) needs a comprehensive educational program."

Another major problem with the law, she said, is that penalties are too light and that there is no educational program in place for stalkers and assailants, which raises concerns that offenders may repeat their crimes.

Akioka also said a short prison term without rehabilitation may even encourage a hatred toward the victim or those who reported the offender to police.

"Most stalkers and assailants of domestic violence think they did nothing wrong," said Akioka. "(They) really need a training program before they are released from prison."

To cover the shortcomings of the antistalking law and to put in place effective measures against domestic violence, a group of lawyers, some citizens' groups and lawmakers in the Diet have started drawing up a new bill.

A report compiled in April by a group of lawyers and members of a citizens' group in Kobe may provide some tips for new legislation.

The report calls for allowing a local court to issue an order to an abuser, upon the request of a victim, not to come within a certain distance of the complainant, with violations of such orders warranting arrest.

Tsunoda said she hopes that a bill to help prevent domestic violence will be presented to the Diet next year.

"For the time being, I really hope that police will take the matter seriously and act quickly to prevent stalking from escalating to a more serious crime."

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