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Swedish assault case thrown out because man 'seemed to come from a good family'

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Swedish assault case thrown out because man 'seemed to come from a good family'
Solna District Court in Stockholm. Photo: Solna District Court. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT
16:16 CET+01:00
A Swedish court ruled that a woman's assault claim against her husband was not credible because, among other things, he "seemed to come from a good family, unlike hers".

In February Solna District Court judged that the Stockholm-based man should be acquitted of an alleged assault against his girlfriend from 2015 because his guilt could not be proven. The woman claimed that he assaulted her by for example pushing her into a chair, striking her and pulling her hair, which the man denied.

The court ruled in the man's favour, noting for example that the woman's "motive for making these accusations could be to exploit his love for her and his 'stupidity' in order to take over his apartment. It is not uncommon for women to falsely claim they have been assaulted and threatened and in such a way pretend that they are in need of sheltered accommodation in order to get an apartment".

"The normal thing in 'these circles'", it continues apparently referring to the couple's foreign background, "is that the woman tells her relatives she has been assaulted if she has been, so that it can be resolved". The woman's decision not to do so and instead report it to the police "further reduces her credibility", it adds.

The information provided by the woman was "not credible and not supported by evidence", meaning the prosecutor's charges could not be proved, it concluded.

Swedish courts do not use juries but instead lay judges, who sit alongside professional judges and are tasked with evaluating cases. In this instance, the professional judge and one of the lay judges judged that the man should be convicted of assault, but a conviction could not occur because the other lay judges disagreed.

The prosecutor in the case told The Local that questions should be asked about the ruling.

"You can question the word choice quite a lot in this sentence, and how it is formulated," Josefine Dahlqvist said.

"A lot of the things in the ruling have nothing to do with the case and are unproven conjecture. I think the district court made a significant error when it came to evaluating the evidence, and the ruling doesn't follow Sweden's rules for evaluating evidence," she continued.

The Local consulted a legal expert in criminal law from Stockholm University for an analysis of the ruling, and she said it was unusual in its appearance.

"What I can say is that it's not normal for a ruling to look like this. They usually show the different points of views of the chairperson and one lay judge, in other words they're more objective, where personal sentiments are not included, regardless of which way the ruling goes," law professor Malou Andersson explained.

"It could to some extent be because it was a lay judge with a lack of experience in writing rulings who wrote it."

Prosecutor Dahlqvist said the ruling has been appealed and it is now up to the appeals court to take a position on the matter.

According to the most recent statistics from 2017, 65.7 percent of criminal cases appealed by the prosecutor to Sweden's appeals courts were overturned.


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