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|Friday 9th January 2004.|
A British man is appealing against a 14 year sentence imposed by a Danish court for killing a paedophile who he says molested his nine-year-old daughter.
Fifty five year-old, Stephen Hoath, who has lived in Denmark for the last thirteen years, insists he and a Danish friend shot the man because local police refused to take action. The case is proving particularly controversial in a country where earlier this summer two young girls were brutally murdered by paedophiles. Many Danes are complaining that out-dated liberal attitudes are preventing the courts from taking action and there are fears that some might follow, Stephen Hoath, by taking the law into their own hands.
Mr Hoath befriended 63 year-old, Villy Andersen, whilst on a fishing trip. He claims his daughter later told him that Andersen had fondled her legs after she went with him to fetch a torch from their car. He then discovered that the man was a convicted paedophile who’d spent 18 months in jail for abusing a child a few years before. Hoath then reported the incident to the police but they claimed that there was insufficient evidence to take any action.
In response Stephen Hoath and a Danish friend, Ejvind Olesen, sent off with a loaded rifle to look for Andersen. On finally finding him Hoath, who has a previous conviction in Britain for attempted murder, shot him dead. Though his controversial solicitor, Peter Hjorne, who frequently represents Danish Hells Angels, insists Hoath had only meant to scare Andersen into leaving his daughter alone. Though quite how shooting someone in the eye can be a warning is hard to tell. Nonetheless, Hjorne claims the sentence imposed on his client for premeditated murder is outrageous given that he was only trying to defend the honour of his daughter.
I recently travelled to Assens jail, East of Jutland to interview Mr Hoath to get a clearer picture of what happened that day. Yet whilst he was willing the authorities were not and I was told he would not be allowed to talk to this programme. His lawyer has seen filed a complaint to the country’s Director of Public Prosecutions claiming this is a denial of Mr Hoath’s freedom of speech.
Ironically no such restrictions seem to be placed on Danish paedophiles. In fact they are allowed to have their own organisation which boasts his own fully legal web site. The Danish Paedophile Association, which sometimes carries full page ads in some newspapers, frequently has it’s say on the alleged benefits for children of having sex with adults.
It pronounces: “Paedophilia means love for children involving erotic feelings.”
And on another web page: “The claim that some child/adult sexual contacts are benign or even beneficial is supported by such a wealth of scientific studies that it cannot be discounted.”
How can they be allowed to say such things? Well, the Associations rights to freedom of speech…along with everyone else’s, are enshrined in the country’s constitution. They have the right to meet and express views provided they are just talking about sex with children and not actually having it. Save the Children Denmark is campaigning to have the website, along with the Association, closed down. The charity’s spokesman in Copenhagen, is Kumo Sorensen. Does he believe that the Associations members stop at talking? “No, I believe very much that they have sexual relations with children because they are so convinced that they don’t harm children.”
Proving what Denmark’s estimated 30,000 paedophiles are up to is a tricky business. Police point out that under Danish law they can’t convict an organisation they have to find evidence against individuals and then prosecute them. But the Head of Copenhagen’s CID, Detective Commander Per Larsen, says is easier said than done: “They are very clandestine. They almost work like secret agents because they are well aware of how dangerous it is for them to expose themselves to society. So, it is very difficult to investigate them in this environment.”
The other option is to change the law and exclude organisations like the Danish Paedophile Association from the right to Freedom of speech. But that is equally difficult. This right is enshrined in the country’s written constitution and amending that requires a referendum and two conclusive votes in parliament. It’s thought that even then such a move would be challenged by Paedophile Association lawyers.
The current situation horrifies journalist, Kristian Jensen, who was abused by a paedophile for three years from the age of nine. Since telling police he has spent more than 12 years receiving counselling and other help in coming to terms with the experience. “It is really, really outrageous. This is an entire government refusing to act. As we speak children are lying in beds being abused. As we speak there is an organisation in Copenhagen which is actually promoting the sexual abuse of children and no one is doing anything.” Mr Jensen is now campaigning for a change in the law which would outlaw the Danish Paedophile Association and close down their web site.
Meanwhile the police acknowledge that frustration is growing in Denmark about what many see as an ugly loophole in the law which puts children at risk. Anxious to defuse the rising tension, Commander Larsen has this advice for any one thinking of copying Stephen Hoath’s idea of vigilante justice:
“Let us handle the cases, even if you’re very angry. If you want revenge use the state’s authorized revenge system and I am part of that. I will make the revenge on your behalf. Trust us.”
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