Online sex case tests limits of rape charge
Sweden's biggest internet sex abuse trial begins today, and the prosecutor claims that rape has been committed, despite the attacker and the victims never meeting.
A 22-year-old man is charged with sex crimes against 96 children, who were between the ages of 5 and 14 when the incidents took place.
The man used the messenger service "Kik" to convince the children to carry out abusive acts against themselves and against others.
Charges against the 22-year-old suspect include molestation, child pornography, aggravated exploitation of children for sexual posing, and aggravated child sexual assault.
But the prosecutor says to news agency TT he wants to "take it one step further" and try to make a charge of rape stick, in the case of some incidents.
The accused has admitted that much of what the prosecutor says is true, but refuses to accept that it constitutes an actual count of rape.
Prosecutor Tomas Mattsson says to Swedish Radio his decision to push forward on this was affected by a recent judgement by the Svea court of appeal, which said that if a victim commits acts tantamount to rape upon him/herself then the perpetrator can be found guilty of rape.
"Earlier a perpetrator would have to have carried out the sexual acts on the victim, for it to be seen as rape," says Tomas Mattsson.
And another prosecutor Helene Gesrin, who is not involved in the current case, tells Radio Sweden that the victim's pain and experience are more valued now, through changes in the penal code. But that the current trial must prove two separate aspects: the physical distance and the fact the victims touched themselves. She also says that this kind of sexual assault online is common.
The 22-year-old suspect, who has not previously been found guilty of any crimes, is on trial in a Stockholm county court, but the victims were from all over Sweden. They will not be appearing in person to give evidence; the court will hear their testimony via recordings.
The trial is expected to take a long time, because of the extensive amount of material and number of victims, and is expected to reach its end sometime in May 2016.