Swedish parents jailed for almost starving vegan child to death

A court in Sweden has sentenced a couple to three months in jail for gross negligence causing bodily harm, after their 18-month-old child was reportedly so undernourished she was close to death.

Swedish parents jailed for almost starving vegan child to death
The girl was fed a diet consisting primarily of breast milk, brown rice and potatoes. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

The Gothenburg court's judgment on Thursday morning, seen by The Local, ruled that the parents' “serious negligence had put their daughter in a life-threatening situation”. They were therefore sentenced to three months in jail and ordered to pay 60,000 kronor (approximately $6,000) in damages to their daughter. 

Her father was also sentenced for several other minor crimes including drugs offences and drink driving.

The girl was brought to emergency care at a hospital in Gothenburg, western Sweden, in February in serious condition and a non-responsive state.

The child had never been registered with Swedish authorities, and the family, who themselves followed a vegan diet, reportedly fed the girl a restricted diet consisting primarily of breast milk, brown rice and potatoes.

In the judgment, the court wrote that the parents' choice of lifestyle should never be prioritized above a child's fundamental needs.

“According to their ideological belief that the daughter was a citizen of the world, her parents did not even report the birth to any authority, have her checked at a paediatric centre, or even weigh or measure her growth. Nor has the girl been vaccinated or examined by a doctor,” a statement from the court said. It added that the food the girl was fed “was far from sufficient or adapted for such a small child”.

The presiding judge, Per Nordén, noted that the parents did what they believed what was best for the child and “did not intentionally harm their daughter”. However, he said the parents had some “remarkable” views, referring to a statement from the girl's mother that she believed people could live without food or water following long-term mental and physical training.

After around three weeks at the hospital, the girl was placed into care, and her foster mother told the court that the child had already begun to recover.

Prosecutor Ximena Bene had requested two or three years' jail for the parents, arguing that the girl was malnourished and this led to her life-threatening medical condition. Doctors said the child was “hours from dying”, and according to judges, the three doctors involved in her care said her condition was due to “prolonged starvation”.

One doctor at the hospital said the girl's condition was “worse than anything we have seen at the hospital before”.

The lawyers representing the parents had said it could not be proved that the girl's condition was due to anything other than a stomach bug. Her weight was described as comparable with that of a typical six-month-old when she arrived at the hospital, something her parents attributed to her natural small size and the recent five-day stomach illness.

After the court, the parents will spend eight weeks living with the girl at a supervised residential care facility for further monitoring by social services.

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Attacker ‘severely disturbed’ during stabbing at Swedish political festival

Theodor Engström, the 33-year-old man who stabbed psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren to death at the Almedalen political festival in July, was seriously psychiatrically disturbed at the time of his attack, forensic psychiatrists have ruled.

Attacker 'severely disturbed' during stabbing at Swedish political festival

According to the Hela Gotland newspaper the Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine has ruled that the man was so disturbed at the time of his attack he had lost the ability to understand the consequences of his actions, and has as a result recommended that he be given psychiatric treatment rather than a prison term.

The agency said that Engström had still been disturbed at the time he was given psychiatric assessment, and warned that there was a risk that Engström would commit further criminal acts. 

“This is a question which has relevance at a future stage,” said prosecutor Henrik Olin. “It means he cannot be sentenced to jail, but will instead receive psychiatric care. But it is not going to change how the investigation is carried out.” 

READ ALSO: What do we know about the Almedalen knife attack?

Engström stabbed Wieselgren, who worked as psychiatric coordinator for the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, as she was on the way to take part on a discussion at the Almedalen political festival. She died in hospital later that day. 

Engström has admitted to carrying out the attack, telling police that he intended to make a protest against the state of psychiatric healthcare in Sweden.