Journalist encounters prison ordeal in quest to find his children

Freelance sports journalist Scott McIntyre spoke at the FCCJ in Tokyo yesterday, following Wednesday’s suspended six-month jail sentence issued by Tokyo District Court. McIntyre was arrested in late November on trespassing charges. He was detained at a local police station and then moved to the same facility which held Carlos Ghosn. In total he spent 44 days in detention, before being released on bail on January 10th.

The Australian admits to visiting on multiple occasions the complex where his in-laws lived to inquire about the health of his two children. He had not seen them since May, the result of a marital breakdown. In fact he never got past the in-law’s lobby intercom.

According to the court ruling, McIntrye refused to stop calling his in-laws on the intercom. He also failed to leave the building despite warnings from police. But McIntyre claims he was never served with a restraining order or accused of engaging in any violent behavior, before his arrest a month after the October 26th incident. In court he pled guilty to the lone charge of trespass.

On arrest, he was handcuffed and put into a small cell. During detention, cellmates included murderers, a rapist, a pedophile and other unsavory characters, he says. Up to seven detainees shared his cell. Each had one tatami mat of space. A doorless toilet provided no privacy. Detainees could exercise 30 minutes each day and bathe or shower only three times a fortnight. McIntyre complained several times about not sleeping properly because of 24-hour lighting. Guards told him to stop whining or they would place him in a straight jacket or into solitary confinement.

Japan’s criminal justice system has come under intense international scrutiny since Carlos Ghosn’s arrest and his theatrical escape. Prosecutors are accused of doling out ‘hostage justice’, by which they seek to obtain convictions rather than determine a defendant’s guilt or innocence. The nation’s conviction rate, at over 99%, is thought to result from prosecutors pursuing only easily won cases. Presumably these involve only the most egregious crimes. 

In addition to questioning if the charge of trespass should merit 44 days of detention under the conditions experienced, McIntyre worries about the plight of children. He believes Japan’s policy of awarding sole custody leads children to being used by parents as pawns in divorce and to what he alleges amounts to ‘child abduction’.

He is contesting his wife’s request for divorce, fearing he will otherwise never see his children again. When appearing in family court he asks, “Where are my children? I want to meet my children.” So far there are no replies.

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