A doctor who plowed his car into pedestrians in downtown Tokyo in 2015 after suffering an epileptic fit, killing one of them and injuring four others, was handed a five-year prison term on June 27.
The Tokyo District Court convicted the defendant, 55-year-old Shoichiro Kaneko, of dangerous driving resulting in death and injury under the Act on Punishment of Acts Inflicting Injury or Death on Others by Driving a Vehicle. Prosecutors had demanded that Kaneko be imprisoned for eight years.
"The scene is in a busy entertainment district, and the defendant's driving was highly dangerous. The outcome was extremely serious," Presiding Judge Kazunori Karei said as he handed down the ruling.
According to the ruling, Kaneko started his vehicle in an underground parking lot near JR Ikebukuro Station in the Minamiikebukuro district of Toshima Ward, Tokyo, on the night of Aug. 16, 2015, even though there was a danger that he could fall into a state of impaired consciousness caused by epilepsy. He then fatally crashed the vehicle into a woman on a sidewalk near the exit of the parking lot, and seriously injured four other pedestrians.
During the trial on charges on dangerous driving resulting in death and injury, the defense counsel for Kaneko insisted that the defendant be acquitted on the grounds that he was unable to predict that he could have an epileptic fit. This prompted Presiding Judge Karei to instruct prosecutors to additionally charge Kaneko with negligence resulting in death and injury.
However, the court pointed out that the defendant had been stricken by epileptic fits four times before, and that he had better knowledge of the disease as a medical practitioner.
Noting that the defendant had driven a car over a long distance before the accident and that he had noticed a strange sense of smell, which is a typical sign of an epileptic fit, the court concluded that the doctor was aware of the specific danger of having such a fit. The presiding judge thus ruled that the defendant's actions constituted dangerous driving resulting in death and injury.
The father of the woman who died in the accident said, "I'd like the defendant to accept the ruling and truly reflect on his actions."