Angry crowds protest over child abuse case

Crowds of angry demonstrators gathered outside the town hall in Vetlanda on Friday afternoon to demand the resignation of the southern Swedish town's head of social services. The protests come after accusations that officials failed to protect a young girl from years of abuse at the hands of her father.

The crowds, estimated to number several hundred, gathered at lunchtime. They chanted “Resign, Ola”, in reference to Ola Götesson, the town’s social services chief. Leading politicians from the town said on Friday lunchtime that they would go down to talk to the demonstrators.

The demonstration was not authorized by police, but officers said that it was peaceful. Some council employees nonetheless said they felt threatened by the crowds.

“We have locked the doors and have security guards here,” said Cecilia Claesson, the new head of the family division of Vetlanda Social Services. Despite the demonstrations, local residents with business to conduct at the town hall were able to gain access.

The demonstrations follow revelations in a documentary broadcast on Tuesday about the case of 10 year-old ‘Louise’. Social services had placed the girl with her father, failing to note that he was on leave from a psychiatric hospital following a conviction for attempted murder.

Louise was subjected to years of severe sexual abuse, and lived in abject squalor, yet the council failed to act, despite social services having visited her on several occasions.

Since Tuesday’s revelations the council has received a large number of critical phone calls and emails, some of them threatening.

“We have sent all the emails we have received to the police. Some of them are crystal clear examples of threats,” said council communications officer Annelie Jönsson.

Police in the town said no formal complaint had been received from the council. They have, however, received over 15 complaints that the social services were criminally negligent in their handling of the case.

“There were even more people who wanted to lodge complaints about the same crime, but they have been satisfied when told that there were already complaints. As far as the investigation is concerned it makes no difference how many people complain – we act on the basis of a single complaint,” said police spokeswoman Ann-Christin Carlsson.

Meanwhile, the County Administrative Board for Småland has reiterated its strong criticism of social services’ handling of the case.

“This is one of the most serious cases we have seen over the year,” said the county’s social services boss Iris Dovrén Råsbrant to Jönköpingts-Posten.

She did not rule out the possibility that fear of the girl’s father could have played a role in the way authorities had dealt with him. Social services, however, had simply been “too easy-going”, she said.

The County Administrative Board criticized Vetlanda social services in a report last autumn. That report has now been sent to the Justice Ombudsman and to the government.