Schoolgirl wins slander appeal

A schoolgirl in western Sweden has won an appeal against a teacher who successfully sued her for defamation last year after she reported him to the police for allegedly molesting her.

The girl was ordered in June by Halmstad District Court to pay her former teacher 35,000 kronor ($4,900) in damages, as well as legal fees amounting to 90,000 kronor.

But in a verdict released on Tuesday, the Court of Appeal overruled the original judgment. It was unreasonable to place the burden of evidence on an individual pupil, according to the court.

“Such a scenario would militate against pupils daring to report cases of assault or harassment, thereby undermining safeguards put in place by the justice system to ensure the right of children and pupils not to be placed in vulnerable situations,” said the court.

In a reversal of the original decision regarding compensation, the teacher has now been ordered to compensate the state for the girl’s legal costs in both the district and appeals courts. Theses amounted to 108,000 kronor.

The case began in 2005 when the teacher told the disruptive 13-year-old girl and her friends to either behave themselves or leave the classroom.

Afterwards the girl went to the principal and complained that the teacher had placed a hand on her behind.

The principal believed the girl’s story and the teacher was duly removed from his post. He received an official warning and later took sick leave.

When he received notification that he was to lose his job, the teacher reported the girl to the police for defamation and bearing false witness.

The girl responded by reporting her teacher for sexual harassment.

When neither his accusation nor the pupil’s counter-allegation led to criminal charges, the teacher decided to pursue the matter further by suing the girl for slander.

According to him, her decision to report him to the police was an act of revenge after he had told her that she was disturbing his lesson.

The girl stuck to her story during the district court trial but the court ruled that she had provided contradictory statements. A number of other pupils who were called to testify also failed to corroborate her claims.

In the appeal court hearing, it emerged that the school had also kept a note of another case in which the teacher was accused of putting his arm around a girl.

The principal of the school had also received a letter from a number pupils detailing the teacher’s behaviour on other occasions.

A number of the pupils who signed the letter had however later apologized to the teacher for bowing to peer pressure.