Both the prosecution and the defense in the sexual assault case against the former mayor of Vågå, Rune Øygard, filed appeals to Norway’s highest court on Thursday. The prosecution claims Øybard’s jail sentence of 15 months for sex with an underage girl wasn’t tough enough. Øygard, meanwhile, continues to claim he’s innocent.
Neither appeal to Norway’s Supreme Court was unexpected. The appeals court had upheld Øygard’s conviction in the case that has received massive media attention in Norway, but cut his jail term in half without giving any explanation.
Both prosecutors and the now-17-year-old girl whom Øygard is accused of assaulting were upset and want the former mayor, who was a powerful member of the Labour Party and a mentor to Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, to serve more prison time.
The 54-year-old Øygard, meanwhile, claims mistakes were made during his trial and that his psychiatrist, Professor Lars Weisæth, should have been allowed to testify at his appeals trial. He’s therefore appealing on the grounds of errors during the court proceedngs.
Nina Braathen Hjortdal, the attorney for the girl whom Øygard was convicted of assaulting repeatedly over several years, said she and her client were glad the prosecution appealed. “I’m in total agreement with the state prosecutor that the punishment was set too low by the appeals court,” Hjortdal told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “My client is very glad this is being appealed. She wasn’t satisfied with the punishment either.”
The case, which has traumatized the mountain community of Vågå where Øygard was a popular mayor for many years, now will be analyzed by the commission deciding which appeals the Supreme Court will hear. It’s by no means certain they’ll hear the appeal, in which case the appeals court decision will remain standing.
If the appeal is granted, the case will come up before Norway’s highest court sometime this autumn.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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