The only man, 42-year-old Lars Skoglund, was considered the ringleader who had distributed large quantities of pornographic material featuring children to the women, who are aged between 38 and 70, according to the charge sheet.
When Skoglund was arrested last September, he was in the possession of 1,181 still shots and 40 films considered child pornography.
“One hundred and fifteen of the pictures and 37 of the films show children who are either very young, who are the victims of violence or coercion or being used in a particularly ruthless manner,” the charge sheet reads.
Skoglund, who could face up to six years behind bars if found guilty of aggravated child pornography crimes, appears to have come in contact with the 23 women in internet chat rooms and gradually convinced them to accept files containing child pornography.
He “has tested the limits, how far the others would go. He first goes from (chatting about) sex to sex with excrements, sex with animals and after a while … sex with children,” prosecutor Niclas Eltenius told journalists at a press conference in the central Swedish town of Falun broadcasted on public radio.
A number of the women had claimed that they had not wanted to download the files, but the prosecution claims transcripts of their chat room conversations with Skoglund show they willingly participated in the exchange.
Skoglund had saved some 5,000 chat logs dating back to 2004 that are being used as evidence in the case.
The women, several of whom had short-lived sexual relationships with the 42-year-old, did not have large quantities of the illicit material in their possession — ranging between six and 71 files each.
They were therefore only charged with the lower level of child pornography crimes, Eltenius said, pointing out that “this can carry a penalty of up to two years in prison.”
Psychologist Elisabeth Kwarnmark who has worked with sex offenders for many years has never before come across a case involving so many women.
However, she says that the driving force behind doesn’t have to be sexual attraction to children.
“It seems to have begun with the man. Then they have been looking at these pictures together to heighten the excitement. It seems to be less about paedophilia and more a question of stretching the limits,” she told news agency TT.
“You want to please the other party, who keeps moving the boundaries. It stems from the women’s low self-esteem and feelings of powerlessness. They felt validated by doing this,” Kwarnmark said to TT.
The case is set to go to trial at the Falun district court in the second half of this year.