TOKYO (Reuters) – An Australian man was released Wednesday after spending a month and a half detained in Tokyo on charges of invasion when he went to his father-in-law’s apartment building to search for his missing children.
Scott McIntyre, an Australian sports journalist, poses for a photograph before his sentence outside the Tokyo District Court in Tokyo, Japan, January 15, 2020. REUTERS / Chang-Ran Kim
The case of Scott McIntyre, a freelance sports journalist based in Tokyo, has drawn attention to the difficulties in Japan faced by parents who lose access to their children after their partners take them away.
Lawyers and legal experts say that Japan effectively approves the act regardless of whether it is domestic violence, and that parents deprived of contact with their children face the threat of arrest if they try to recover or see them.
McIntyre was arrested on November 28 for entering the common area of the building where his wife’s parents live at the end of October in an attempt to find their children.
He was released on bail last Friday after pleading guilty to the charges, and on Wednesday he received a six-month prison sentence suspended for three years.
Japan’s judicial system has drawn worldwide attention to the prolonged detention and subsequent escape of former car executive Carlos Ghosn in what critics have described as a “hostage justice” system that is based on making confessions. Ghosn has said that Japan’s justice system was “manipulated.”
“It’s been 238 days since I heard or saw my children,” McIntyre said in his audience last week, holding back tears. “I have no idea if my children are alive or dead, and as a father this causes me incredible pain.”
He testified that he had made numerous requests to the police and his wife’s lawyers, the two are going through a divorce mediation, to let him know if the children are safe, but that they were ignored. On the day of the illegal entry, he had been worried about his children after a typhoon that swept the region, he said.
It was not clear why McIntyre’s wife left him taking his daughter and son, now 11 and 7 years old. Prosecutors said she had claimed McIntyre’s physical violence against her daughter, which he denied, and the material presented by the prosecution was dismissed as irrelevant to the intrusion charge.
It was also unclear why he was arrested more than a month after the illegal entry, or why he had been detained for so long. A previous request for bail was denied because it could destroy evidence or flee the country.
Chang-Ran Kim report; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan