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A Japanese court sentenced a 22-year-old woman to nine years in prison on Friday for starving her 2-year-old daughter to death last year in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido.

The Sapporo District Court found Rina Ikeda did not give her daughter Kotori, who was assaulted and injured by her boyfriend, access to medical treatment or sufficiently feed her between late May and early June last year, leading to the girl’s death.

Presiding Judge Toshikazu Ishida criticized the defendant’s act as “extremely irresponsible and malicious” as she went out for hours and left her daughter alone without feeding her.

The boyfriend, Kazuya Fujiwara, 26, was sentenced last month by the same court to 13 years in jail for child abuse, but has appealed the ruling.

Prosecutors had sought a 14-year term for Ikeda. But her defense team said Kotori died because she choked on her own vomit, rather than as a result of being starving to death.

The daughter was not in need of protection as she was able to walk and eat by herself hours before her death, according to her lawyer.

But the court dismissed the claim based on the opinion of a doctor who conducted the autopsy.

Kotori weighed only about 6 kilograms, half the average weight of a girl her age, the doctor said in testimony.

The incident came to light at a time when the Japanese government was stepping up efforts to protect children from abuse by their parents following a series of high-profile cases, including 10-year-old Mia Kurihara’s death in Noda, near Tokyo.

The revised law went into effect in April banning parents and other guardians from physically punishing children and strengthening the ability of child welfare centers to intervene in cases where abuse is suspected.

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