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Jurisprudence in Sweden: Case Study

And people wonder how Julian Assange got messed up.


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DUCKPOND (Rixstep) — It's all about jurisprudence. Or the lack thereof. Many nations take pride in their legal systems.

The Online Etymology Dictionary describes - for those who somehow can't figure it out - exactly what the term 'jurisprudence' means.

jurisprudence (n.)
1620s, 'knowledge of law,' from French jurisprudence (17c.) and directly from Late Latin iurisprudentia 'the science of law', from iuris 'of right, of law' (genitive of ius; see jurist) + prudentia 'knowledge, a foreseeing' (see prudence). Meaning 'the philosophy of law' is first attested 1756.

prudence (n.)
mid-14c., 'intelligence; discretion, foresight; wisdom to see what is suitable or profitable'; also one of the four cardinal virtues, 'wisdom to see what is virtuous'; from Old French prudence (13c.) and directly from Latin prudentia 'a foreseeing, foresight, sagacity, practical judgment', contraction of providentia 'foresight' (see providence). Secondary sense of 'wisdom' (late 14c.) is preserved in jurisprudence.

Not many people will miss what 'juris' means, and fewer still will miss the meaning of 'prudence'.

Splash!

World-renowned Aftonbladet splashed editions today with the following headline.



It's a splash, marked with the big bold 'EXTRA'. Below a graphic almost not worth printing, and for what purpose can easily be divined, and with a telling big red 'X' to mark the spot, they print: 'Three Acquitted of Group Rape', and below that: '17 year old girl raped in Älvsjö - teenage boys freed'.

Älvsjö is a suburb of Stockholm; the message sent by Aftonbladet is that a heinous crime has been committed and three very dangerous criminals have been released (to prey on the general populace) but this has to do with the failure of the Swedish courts to mete out justice to suspects proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The 'attack' is highly sensationalistic, in a Swedish kind of tabloid way.

Article

Now to the article. The case was supposedly only decided today, so this is fresh off the presses. A bullet list will serve best.

  • A 17yo girl was the victim of aggravated sexual violence last August in Älvsjö.
  • Three men were charged with group rape and the verdict came today.
  • The district court in Södertörn dismissed all charges.

Sounds terrible! Rape is a terrible crime! It's assault! What's wrong with that court anyway? Let's read on.

  • It was at the end of this past summer that the 17yo girl, according to the prosecutor, was accosted by five young men outside Älvsjö, south of Stockholm.
  • These teenage boys hit, shoved, and pawed at her. The shoves and blows escalated, according to the charges, to them holding her whilst removing her clothing and assaulting her sexually.
  • The teenagers took turns, according to the prosecutor, at having sex with the 17yo.

One comment so far - the rest can wait: Note that Aftonbladet first described the perps as 'men', then 'young men', and finally 'teenage boys'. The farther you read down into a Swedish tabloid article, the more you approach the truth.

Detention

Four of the five were arrested; three have been in prison ever since. (The 4th was deemed mentally unstable.)

'I assess the rapes as aggravated because several people have forced or attempted to force sex with the complainant', said prosecutor Mathias Lindberg. 'They did this with violence or coercion and by exploiting the complainant's vulnerable situation.'

Verdict

But the district court in Södertörn didn't much like Lindberg's approach. The verdict was to have come today, according to Aftonbladet. All defendants were acquitted and released.

The district court in Södertörn found namely that the 'evidence' presented by prosecutor Lindberg left a lot to be desired.

  • The court said contradictorily that the girl seemed trustworthy but that there were a number of circumstances that gave them reason to 'question the reliability of her testimony'.
  • She was described by the court as 'impulsive' and, according to the verdict, has had difficulty understanding the consequences of her actions, and also had difficulty giving a chronology for the incidents.
  • The girl's testimony about the incidents has varied over time as she, after the fact, spoke with various people, people called as witnesses for the trial. She told one person that the assaults took place indoors after a party and that she didn't resist and didn't say 'no'. She told another witness, according to the verdict, that she was part of the 'festivities' and very much wanted them to happen.
  • She also submitted descriptions of the suspects that didn't match any of the defendants.

Appeal

Prosecutor Lindberg made sure to get in those keywords 'vulnerable situation' so as to qualify for pressing charges of rape, but the court didn't show any interest, as they found proof that one of the defendants wasn't even at the scene of the crime, and the other two did not behave as the prosecutor claimed.

There are so many things wrong with this case it's not funny. Fortunately the district court were able to sort matters out.

  • Presumption of innocence got thrown out the window. So did 'speedy trial'.
  • The girl's testimony was all over the place. She gave several contradictory versions of events.
  • Swedish 'jurisprudence' gives prosecutors almost the power of life and death over whomever they target.
  • You don't imprison people for months at a time on mere suspicion whilst the prosecutor goes about trying to assemble a case. At least in civilised countries you don't.

Not to mention the fact that the district court didn't accept the fact that the girl was in fact raped, and Aftonbladet, after receiving the verdict, went ahead with their headline anyway.

This story isn't interesting because the supposed complainant may have been 'impulsive' (and a pathological liar). That's for no one to decide outside a courtroom.

This story is interesting because a Swedish prosecutor, entrusted with doing his part to uphold justice in his country, brought to court a case so flimsy that even a preschooler would have thrown it out.

Based on evidence - and evidence most likely gathered after the fact - that didn't even make sense, this prosecutor kept three teenagers in prison for four months. (Remember: there's no 'bail' in Sweden, so those men young men teenage boys sat behind bars the entire time. For charges, as presented by the prosecutor, that should never have gone to court.)

And if you find ringing similarities with another famous case that's still pending, don't be surprised. You're witnessing the Swedish version of 'jurisprudence'.

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