An Australian man who was arrested in Japan after he danced on a police car on New Year’s Eve could face up to three years prison.
Sam Faill, 22, was on the beginning of his first overseas holiday with two friends when he was arrested after dancing on the roof of the anti-terrorism vehicle in Shibuya, Tokyo.
As thousands gathered in the popular shopping and entertainment district to welcome in the New Year, Faill jumped on top of the van, where he began to dance.
He has been charged by Japanese authorities with obstructing official duties.
His mother, Carolyn Braid, said Faill was "caught up in the moment".
“He was so excited to be there -- it was his first trip overseas and he was over the moon. I think the freedom might have gotten to him a little bit too much," she told The Huffington Post Australia.
“Him and two other mates were on the beginning of a snowboarding holiday and had plans to spend five days in Tokyo,”
“They were right in the centre of all the happenings -- partying, having fun and basically he got caught up in the excitement of it all."
She said it was a snap decision and he was only on the roof of the car for 10 or 15 seconds.
Mitchell Bryant, 22, was travelling with Faill and was in the crowd during the arrest.
“Everyone was in the middle of the street, it was just crazy,” he told HuffPost Australia.
“The big riot car came in and all these people started blocking it and pushing it and that’s when Sam decided to jump on top and dance. When he decided to get down, there were five people waiting for him.”
Faill had already been taken away by police before Bryant could make his way through the massive crowd to find out what was happening.
“The next day they sent us to three or four police stations while we were looking for him. By the time we finally got to him they said ‘no information, no visitors’,” he said.
“I had to get a translator to get them to tell us where he was.”
Up until this time the only information that Faill’s family in Australia had been given about the incident was that he had been arrested.
“We had only heard from his mates who he was travelling with that he had been arrested,” his mother said.
“We had no contact with him -- no phone calls and he had no visitors apart from the lawyer. It was a really tough time not knowing what he was going through.
“The embassy did send someone in after the holiday period, unfortunately everything had closed down during the holiday period and there were three days when basically nothing happened.
“The embassy went in on the fifth of January to check that he was OK and that was when we got the first contact from him.”
Faill has remained in custody and is due to face court on February 26 but is remaining positive and using the experience to turn his life around, according to his mother.
“He’s doing amazing, it’s just incredible,” she said.
“It’s turned out to be a really positive thing -- he’s been moved to the detention centre in Tokyo and we’ve been able to get in contact with him, he’s been able to write letters and we have sent them back through an interpreter.
“He’s taken it on as a really positive thing that has happened to him, last year he had a terrible year and he’s had a big wake-up call.”
According to Article 95 of the Japanese Penal Code, if convicted, Faill could face a maximum sentence of three years in prison or face a fine of over $6,000.
Professor Makoto Ibusuki from Seijo University, Tokyo believes that a conviction is unlikely.
“If the defendant is indicted, many of them will be suspended for the sentencing,” he told HuffPost Australia.
“It means that they will not go to prison. Statistics say that the suspending rate is 65 percent.”
The translator for Faill’s lawyer has told Braid that she too believes it would be unlikely for her son to receive a sentence.
“She (the lawyer) is feeling as though it is very unlikely that he will be sentenced. I hope so too, he would’ve been there for two months by the time the court case comes around," she said.
Braid said that while she had initially planned to travel to Japan for the hearing, her son had told her not to.
“He doesn’t want me spending my money on his stupid mistake,” she said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has offered Faill and his family assistance.
Despite the fact that there is a chance Faill may still be sentenced, his mother believes that his experience may have been a blessing in disguise.
“He’s on a totally different path -- he actually said he’s loving it in there. We got letters from him last night and he’s had an epiphany. He said he’s the happiest he has been in his life,” she said.
“He left this little naïve boy and he’s going to come back a man.”