The Grand Chamber is preparing to deliver its judgment in Söderman v. Sweden. This European Court of Human Rights case involves a 14-year-old girl who was covertly filmed by her stepfather while she was undressing prior to taking a shower. Subsequently, her mother immediately burned the tape and did not report the incident until two years later. Consequently, the stepfather was prosecuted for child molestation and was convicted, but then acquitted on appeal in 2007. The court held that he could not be guilty of child molestation because he never intended for the girl to find out about the tape and there was no general legal prohibition of taping her without her consent at that time. The appeal court concluded that although he might have been found guilty of child pornography, the prosecution did not raise this issue, so the court could not consider it. In December 2007, the Supreme Court dismissed the case.
Ms. Söderman, now in her mid-20s, based her recent complaint on the Swedish legal system’s lack of protecting her personal integrity by not prohibiting this sort of act. She relies on Article 8, right to respect for private life, of the European Convention on Human Rights. She complains that Sweden failed to comply with its obligation to provide her with remedies – whether criminal or civil – against her stepfather’s violation. The application was filed with the European Court of Human Rights in 2008. In 2012, the Chamber held that there was no violation of Article 8. On Nov. 19, 2012, the case was referred to the Grand Chamber at Ms. Söderman’s request. A hearing was held in April 2013 and a judgment is expected within the next week.
Hopefully, the Grand Chamber will be able to set a healthier precedent, rectify these mistaken decisions, and not condone this appalling behavior anymore. There must be a remedy for this victim. I cannot see how any court of law can accept this monster’s behavior and leave no remedy left for the innocent, young victim.
Considering the lower courts’ decisions, do you think the Grand Chamber will reverse in this case? What do you think will happen if it does not reverse? Will there be any outcry or backlash by other countries for acquiescing to this behavior? What kind of public policy would be created if the Court excused this behavior? What would the appropriate remedy be for an act that happened a decade ago? What would make this victim “whole” again?