Tuesday 16 January 2018

Nicola murder accused to be tried as an adult

Rob Gilhooly in Tokyo

A JAPANESE court has recommended that the 19-year-old suspect in the killing of Wexford student Nicola Furlong should be tried as adult.

US musician Richard Hinds, who is regarded as a juvenile in Japan, could have received up to five years in jail if he had been tried in a family court.

However, he will now be tried as an adult and face the same punishments as an adult, which includes the death penalty.

Although he could not reveal details of the hearing, Nicola's father Andrew said the family was happy with the outcome and handling of the case to date.

"We're delighted," he said.

Mr Hinds (19) has been charged with strangling the 21-year-old student in a Tokyo hotel in May following a Nicki Minaj concert in the city.

Yesterday's proceedings followed Thursday's hearing, when details of the crime and a family statement were heard in order to determine whether or not the case would be returned to the prosecutor's office.

The Furlongs, from Curracloe, Co Wexford, were placed in the same room as the accused, and Mr Hinds' face was turned away from the family to prevent any eye contact.

Lawyer Kaoru Haraguchi said the court would have weighed up whether he was "equal to an adult" in light of the criminal act he or she performed.

Another legal specialist, who is also unconnected to the case, said almost all such murder cases ended up in the criminal courts, especially when considering the accused's age.

Ultimately this means that the accused can face the death penalty, he said. "That would be unusual, but not unthinkable," he said.

In February the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty for a man convicted of strangling and then raping a young mother and murdering her baby daughter in 1999 when he was 18.

It is likely that the Furlongs will be waiting some time to discover the outcome, as fastidious procedures can mean court cases drag on.

On Thursday, Mr Furlong said the experience of being in the same room as the accused killer -- who is thought to have strangled Nicola with a towel or rope -- had left him and his family in a state of emotional turmoil.

Nicola's mother Angela and her sister Andrea have also travelled to Tokyo.

"All I can say is that all three of us are extremely emotional at this time. It was far, far worse than anything we ever imagined. I sincerely hope that no other parent ever has to go through anything like this."

Spirit

Mr Furlong added that the family was also looking forward to flying home today, the very day that Nicola was due to return from Japan after a one-year study exchange from Dublin City University.

"She'll be with us on that plane. We'll be taking her spirit home with us," he said.

The business and Japanese language student was based at the Takasaki City University of Economics.

Until now reporting on the case has been restricted by a law governing juvenile trials.

But if yesterday's decision allows Mr Hinds to be tried as an adult, then media restrictions should be relaxed.

Irish Independent

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