Tourist fined for upskirt photo

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A Japanese teacher’s upskirt photograph of a fellow tourist on a windy day in Greymouth has led to a holiday nightmare and a $500 payment – but no criminal conviction.

It led to the New Zealand police making inquiries with Interpol about Tadahiro Funamoto in case the 53-year-old man was a serial offender.

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But the investigation showed he had no convictions anywhere.

He pleaded guilty in Christchurch District Court today to charges of making an intimate visual recording, and refusing to give his fingerprints to police.

Defence counsel Tony Garrett then sought to convince Judge David Saunders that Funamoto should be discharged without conviction because of the difficulties he had already faced, and the likely effects of a conviction in Japan.

Members of the Japanese Consulate were in court, and an interpreter was present to translate the proceedings.

Funamoto is a registered teacher, a married man whose wife and two daughters aged 22 and 19 have been travelling in New Zealand for months. He has a work permit.

Mrs Funamoto was left behind by the Trans-Alpine train when she was not quick enough back from the toilet during a stop at Arthur’s Pass. Her husband became anxious.

On the viewing platform of the train, he took a photograph of the complainant holding down her skirt with her hands at her sides.

There was nothing particularly prurient or offensive about it, and others were doing the same.

“The real mischief seems to be another shot that was taken at Greymouth station,” said Mr Garrett. “I asked to see copies of these pictures. It may be typical Christchurch or West Coast policing but I was told to use my imagination.”

The police referred to a shot showing “a portion of buttock and underwear”.

“That particular image would not be offensive, but it is the manner in which it was taken,” said Mr Garrett.

It had been deleted. There had been a thorough search of the camera and memory stick, but nothing had been found.

Funamoto had been in custody for two days and two nights, and had not given his fingerprints because he could not understand the interpreter’s request.

The family’s travel plans had been completely rearranged because of the bail conditions.

“What was meant to be a revelation of New Zealand’s scenic beauty and marvellous parts of the country has been quite a nightmare.”

Funamoto has written a letter of apology to the victim, who is still in the country.

He bowed several times as Judge Saunders’ sentencing remarks were translated.

The judge said he accepted there had been considerable costs, and that language difficulties led to him refusing to give his fingerprints.

For the offence with the camera, a first offender would normally be convicted and fined.

“I accept that he is a registered teacher and there will be some real difficulties with the authorities in Japan understanding the nature of this offending, and they may well take a step that will be out of proportion to the gravity of this offence disclosed here today,” said the judge.

He discharged Funamoto without conviction but ordered that he pay $500 either to the court for the cost of prosecution, or to the West Coast Search and Rescue organisation.

Once a receipt is produced for the payment this week, Funamoto’s passport and travel documents will be returned to him.