Prison for police who “misunderstood” rape

Two policemen who failed to send colleagues to an ongoing rape incident when they were on duty in Stockholm's central communication centre have been sentenced to a month in prison.

They were found guilty of misconduct, along with a third policeman who was fined 37,500 kronor.

Last April a 19 year old woman got off the night bus near her home in Täby, north of Stockholm. She was accosted by a man who dragged her into a wooded area where he assaulted her and raped her “for several hours”.

During the attack the young woman managed to call a friend and let her know what was happening. The friend immediately rang 112, the emergency number, to tell police of the phone call and give them an idea of where the assault was taking place.

But the alert got no further than the communication centre. Not until four hours later was a police car sent to the scene – by which time the victim had already made her own way to hospital.

One of the policemen was the duty commander and responsible for the night’s service. Another was an operator while the third was also a commander.

During the trial they claimed that their failure to send colleagues to investigate the incident was a “misunderstanding”.

They had apparently thought that the rape had already taken place and the woman was already on a bus by the time of the call. They considered the information to be too vague, they said.

But in sentencing the officers, Stockholm district court said that this was not an acceptable excuse.

The court wrote in its judgement that it is part of the police’s job to check information so that such misunderstandings do not happen.

Johan Eriksson, the lawyer defending the police operator, said a month’s imprisonment was an “absurd” sentence.

“If only life were so simple that mistakes could never happen – we would all like that,” he said to Swedish Radio. “But he misunderstood the situation.”

The duty commander was also given a prison sentence while the other commander was fined.

The second commander’s lawyer, Leif Silbersky, told Svenska Dagbladet that two things about the verdicts had surprised him:

“One thing is that the prosecutor had only demanded fines, and the other thing is the general criticism which the court made of the police’s competence. I defend many police officers and I don’t think you should lump everyone together like that.”

He said that his client would appeal.

The National Police Board has already made it clear that the officers will not lose their jobs, despite Thursday’s sentence.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, SR