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Sweden: Court Overturns Rape Case Decision

(Nov. 7, 2012) <?Sweden's Göta Court of Appeal overturned a previous decision in a rape case in which the victim was a transgendered woman. The October 2012 decision was issued a year after the crime and changed the July 2012 Örebro District Court determination in the case. In the appeal decision, the accused was sentenced to imprisonment for 15 months and ordered to pay compensation of SEK40,000 (about US$6,000). (Swedish Court Overturns Acquittal in Transgender Rape Case, ICENEWS (Oct. 23, 2012).)

The original district court decision had acquitted the defendant of the rape charge on the grounds that rape was not possible, because the victim had been born with male genitalia. Instead, the defendant was found guilty of assault. At that time he was given asentence of four months of imprisonment and ordered to pay SEK15,000 (about US$2,250) in compensation to the woman. (Man Beats Rape Rap After Victim Found to Be a Man, THE LOCAL (updated July 6, 2012).)

Speaking in July 2012, Judge Dan Sjöstedt of the Örebro District Court said that “[t]here are different theories about how this should be handled, and so we’re looking forward to seeing the verdict from the Court of Appeals.” He added that if he were either the prosecutor or the defense attorney in the case, he would pursue an appeal. (Id.) In Sweden, both sides, prosecution and defense, may appeal a district court decision in a criminal case. (See SWEDISH LAW: A SURVEY 511 (Hugo Tiberg, Pär Crohult, & Fredrik Sterzel eds. 1994).)

In the appeals decision, officials of the court argued that even though the previous judge was correct in saying rape physically could not have taken place, the offender did intend to sexually assault the victim and thus was guilty of attempted rape. The transgendered person was dressed in women’s clothes and thus appeared to the assailant to be a woman. (Swedish Court Overturns Acquittal in Transgender Rape Case, supra.) Prosecutor Eva Grandestedt expressed relief that a conviction was obtained, adding that “the punishment is in line with what I had asked for. This ruling shows that you can convict for attempted rape regardless of the gender identity of the victim.” (Id.)

The Swedish Penal Code specifies in chapter 23 that attempts to commit crimes are punishable. Chapter 6, section 12, specifically applies this standard to sexual crimes, including rape. (THE SWEDISH PENAL CODE, Ds1999:36 (published July 21, 2004, last updated Nov. 9, 2005), Government Offices of Sweden website.)