A woman who claims to be the first western geisha has lost
the latest round in a fight against her convictions and
sentence in a long-running legal battle over the use of a
Australian anthropologist Fiona Graham was convicted and
fined in 2008 in Queenstown District Court for failing to
meet fire standards on a building she had wanted to turn into
low-budget tourist accommodation.
She and her company, Wanaka Gym, were ordered to pay fines
Graham appealed against the convictions and sentences.
In a High Court decision in February last year, Justice
Christine French dismissed the appeals, saying Graham "has no
remorse", and criticised her for her "stubborn refusal to
accept that the safety of persons sleeping in the building
Graham also lost a bid to appeal against that decision in the
Court of Appeal.
Last November, Graham applied for special leave to the Court
of Appeal to appeal against Justice French's decision.
Her lawyer, John Andrew told the court his client should have
been discharged without conviction because it was out of
proportion to the gravity of the offence and would have an
impact on her career in Japan.
In a decision released today, Justices Ellen France, Rodney
Hansen and Jillian Mellon acknowledged Graham's
qualifications were "undoubtedly unique".
"She obtained a degree at Keio University and completed a
doctorate in social anthropology at the University of Oxford.
"She undertook training to become a geisha. It was initially
an academic project but she received permission to continue
training, formally debuting as a geisha in December 2007."
She was reported to be the first Caucasian woman to work in
the role, the judges said.
Mr Dean argued that Justice French did not turn her mind to
the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction for
Graham's career, in particular her unique status as the first
western geisha and her academic career in the field of social
The judge's noted that Justice French had acknowledged that
Graham was the "world's foremost expert" in her field.
"...she commented that, if her international standing and
contribution to Japanese society is as significant as is
being claimed, the risk of non-renewal of her visa would be
The judges said that apart from difficulties in in obtaining
a visa or permanent residency in Japan, there was no evidence
that convictions would jeopardise Graham's career as a geisha
or as a social anthropologist.
They dismissed her application for special leave to appeal
against the High Court decision.