Couple get record-long jail term in ‘worst ever’ case of child abuse

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A couple in their 30s were sentenced to 17 years in jail on Thursday for beating and sexually assaulting their three sons from the time two of them were just one and two years old. It’s the longest prison term ever ordered for child abuse in Norway, after the judge hearing the case agreed with prosecutors that it was the “worst case of abuse to be handled by a Norwegian court.” 

The case has unfolded in the Øvre Romerike Courthouse northeast of Oslo over the past several weeks, with horrifying accounts of how the boys were locked in cellars, denied food, beaten, sexually abused and repeatedly raped over a period of several years. The boys’ parents also were alleged to have ordered the boys to attack each other.

Foster parents rang alarm
The parents, who have a history of moving from township to township in Norway and thus eluding authorities, were finally charged after the two youngest boys were placed in separate foster homes following reports of concern that can anonymously be filed with the local offices of the state child welfare agency (Barnevernet). After just a few weeks in foster care, the boys began telling their individual foster parents about the abuse they had suffered.

The foster parents alerted the authorities and an investigation was launched. Both the child welfare authorities, police and prosecutors found the boys’ stories to be credible and consistent, with them separately confirming each others’ experiences.

Testimony presented in court included 20 hours of videotaped questioning of the boys that the judge also found credible: “The children’s testimony is so detailed that it is difficult to be attributed to anything other than incidents they have themselves experienced,” wrote Judge Karen Wendel Sandaa in the ruling read aloud in court on Thursday.

Gasp in the courtroom
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that a gasp went through the courtroom when the judge read that the boys’ parents were sentenced to 17 years in prison, even more than that 15 years handed down in another recent and, at that time, considered the country’s worst case of child abuse called the “Alvdal case.” The couple was also ordered to pay NOK 450,000 in damages to each of their sons and refrain from taking any contact with them for at least five years.

The judge stressed that the lack of technical evidence in the case was not unusual in a child abuse case. The judge chose to believe what the children had revealed independently of one another in official hearings, and to their foster parents. The oldest boy, the son of the woman by a former partner, is now 17 years old and was abused from the age of six. The two younger boys are the sons of the woman and the man sentenced on Thursday, and are aged six and seven. Prosecutors said they’d been subject to abuse from the time they were just one and two years old.

The parents, whose identities weren’t publicly revealed by Norwegian media, have consistently denied the charges against them and appealed their convictions and sentences on the spot. They claim the boys have been lying and that they’ve been subject to “a dirty game” from police, prosecutors and the foster parents.

The appeals case is likely to begin this autumn.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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