Girl “not helpless enough” for rape judgement

A Swedish court of appeal has found two men not guilty of raping a 15 year old girl, arguing that despite the fact that she was on the run, had not had hardly eaten any food or had any sleep and had been drinking alcohol, she was not in a "helpless state".

The prosecutor, Anne-Marie Nyholm, had appealed against an earlier judgement by the Handen district court, which had freed the two men but found one man guilty of raping the girl in Jordbro, south of Stockholm.

Professor in criminal law Madeleine Leijonhufvud criticised the judgement:

“The verdict in the Jordbro case is very, very interesting. It confirms what the Swedish government apparently didn’t understand when the law was changed earlier this year,” she said to Svenska Dagbladet.

On April 1st this year the sexual crimes law was tightened up, although the definition of a “helpless state” remained unchanged.

The court noted that the government specifically has not made the law relevant in cases when a person is in an “especially vulnerable situation”.

The prosecutor maintained that the girl was in a helpless state when the men had sex with her, and that the men must have realised that.

Several days before the incident, the girl had absconded from a treatment centre without any money, and had had little food or sleep since then.

A friend had left her, with nowhere else to go she had gone to the three men’s apartment. There she was offered alcohol.

But while the Svea Court of Appeal agreed on Monday that the girl had found herself in a very unpleasant and dangerous situation, it said that according to the rule of law she was not helpless.

The prosecutor demanded that the court categorise the rape committed by the man found guilty as serious, in order that he face a longer sentence. She also demanded that one of the other men, who had had oral sex with the girl, be found guilty of serious rape.

The third man, who was served with a summons in Lithuania, did not appear in court and the part of the case which concerned him was cancelled.

The girl was not called as a witness during the appeal court proceedings. That did not influence the decision, said the court, “because the decision was based on a legal judgement of the girl’s state, rather than how trustworthy her evidence was”.

In parliament there were a number of motions arguing that there should be a rape conviction not just when the victim was helpless, but when she is in an especially vulnerable situation. But these motions were not heard said Madeleine Leijonhuvud.

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TT/The Local