Swedish court acquits alleged abuser who "seems to come from a good family"

A man was acquitted of sexually assaulting his partner in Sweden after judges ruled the woman’s claim was not credible. In a ruling which has caused widespread controversy, the court said that it was “not uncommon” for women to lie about assault.

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards NewsMavens, Sweden
Source: The Local
Swedish court acquits alleged abuser who "seems to come from a good family" - NewsMavens
Sculpture of Themis. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

The judges ruled in the man’s favour, saying that one motive for a woman to lie about experiencing assault could be to gain ownership of a shared apartment, and that the defendant “seemed to come from a good family, unlike hers”.

In further comments apparently referring to the couple’s foreign background, they said that resolving the issue within the family, rather than going to police, would have been “the normal thing in these circles”.

The case has raised questions over the use of lay judges appointed by political parties (though they must swear not to allow political views to affect their decision), who hold the same power as professional judges in Swedish district courts. These are ordinary citizens, not trained in law, who replace the role of the jury in certain types of municipal courts. In this instance, the ruling was swung by two lay judges after the third lay judge and the sole professional judge argued for a guilty verdict.

In the wake of this ruling, several politicians and legal professionals in Sweden have called for changes to the lay judge system, though the country's Justice Minister pointed out that a set of 2014 reforms meant it was already relatively easy to dismiss people from this position.

crime, violence, gender, women's issues

Details from the story:

  • The woman claimed her partner assaulted her by hitting her, pulling her hair, and pushing her into a chair.
  • After the story made national headlines in Sweden, one of the judges said he did not have time to read the ruling in full, and opposed parts of it, though he stood by the decision to acquit the accused.
  • The other judge has previously been criticised for comments in which she said some parts of Swedish legislation relating to divorce and inheritance should apply differently to Muslims.
  • Both judges involved have now been suspended from their roles and expelled from the Centre Party, which appointed them. The party’s leader called the judgment “horrendous” and a “wake-up call”, and others have argued for changes to the Swedish legal system.
  • The ruling itself has been appealed.
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