Denmark rape: Three youths jailed as acquittal quashed

Police waiting in front of High Court in Copenhagen (15 February 2007) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The High Court in Copenhagen overruled an earlier verdict in the case (file photo)

Denmark's high court has overturned the controversial acquittal of three young men in a rape case involving a drunk, diabetic victim, 17, at a party.

She was found unresponsive behind bushes at a community hall in Herfolge, with her insulin pump disconnected.

The three defendants, all 17 at the time of the offence in September 2014, have now been convicted of rape or attempted rape and given jail terms.

Their acquittal in April sparked anger and demonstrations in Denmark.

The High Court of Eastern Denmark ruled on Monday (in Danish) that the victim was so drunk and affected by her diabetes that she was unable to consent to sex.

The district court in Roskilde had earlier found that the teenager was in a fit state to consent.

She was found with multiple abrasions on her body, and lacerations to her vagina and anus.

She had apparently drunk 12 units of alcohol since arriving at the party and said she had never been so drunk.

A groundbreaking case - by Trine Baumbach, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen

When the perpetrators were acquitted in the spring, there was a great debate in Denmark, not just about the case but about rape in general.

Although the Danish justice system works, our legislation needs correcting because we focus too much on violence and coercion instead of consent.

We ask the perpetrator, 'Did the woman say no? Did she fight for herself?', instead of asking if she said yes.

The problem in this case was that the woman was unable to consent, so the main topic was whether she was in a state of mind in which she was unable to say no. But that is the wrong way to look at a rape case. It should have been whether she was able to say yes.

Human freedom is for women too and if you want to go into a relationship, you have to have consent. Many Danish MPs have focused on rape this summer as a result of this case. I think they'll change the law so justice will be done in a more appropriate way.

The woman's blood sugar levels were several times higher than normal, though her diabetes was usually well controlled.

Two of the defendants admitted not knowing the girl's name, and did not speak to her during the sexual acts.

Two of the young men have received eight-month prison sentences, and the third a six-month jail term.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Some diabetics wear an insulin pump to constantly control their blood sugar (file photo)

Helena Hansen from the Danish Women's Society told Denmark's TV2 that Monday's verdict would "give rape victims the courage to stand up".

Danish feminist organisation Joan Sisters also welcomed the High Court's judgement - criticising the "unfortunate signal" in the earlier judgement from the lower court that as the girl had danced earlier in the evening with one of the accused this "could provide indirect consent to sex".

Amnesty International says there is "impunity" for the majority of rape cases in Denmark as most cases never reach trial. It says there is a "disproportionately high attrition rate in prosecuting cases of rape" there.

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