A 90-year-old man who became an unlikely celebrity when he staged his own legal defense over charges of failing to wear a life jacket was sentenced on Wednesday. Arne Pedersen was ordered to pay a NOK 600 (USD 97) fine or spend one day in jail, as well as NOK 1,000 in court costs.
Arne Pedersen gave a spirited defense in the Ofoten district court in Nordland earlier this month, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He’d been picked up by the coast guard in August last year while fishing 40 metres from the shore, and fined NOK 500 for failing to wear a life jacket. He refused to pay the fine and demanded in court that all charges against him be dropped.
“I have not done anything wrong,” he told the court, arguing he had floats on board his registered boat. “It’s the regulations that are totally wrong. I hope for a natural conclusion of this case, namely a full acquittal. These are crazy rules made by desk boys.”
On Wednesday the court found Pedersen guilty of violating leisure and boating laws. It ruled he had acted negligently by failing to have suitable rescue gear or a life jacket on board. Because Pedersen objected to the original fine, the court had to increase the penalty to NOK 600.
Waste of resources
Pedersen wasn’t even aware he’d been convicted until he was contacted by NRK. “What is going on with the courts?” he reacted. “I can’t get the post before the afternoon, so I haven’t had the chance to read the whole judgment. It’s amazing that I’m the last to know anything.”
Pedersen said in hindsight, mounting his own defense probably wasn’t the best idea. “I will die, but not because of this judgment,” he said. “But I am disappointed. I have lost faith in the police and the judiciary.” He claimed that pursuing his minor case was an insane waste of resources. “It’s rubbish to take a 90-year-old before the court for seeking extra food on calm seas, 40 metres from the shore. The coast guard should rather be concentrating on trawlers dumping fish.”
Police prosecutor Torgeir Kvitvik said the court couldn’t drop the case, but had to choose between prosecution and a fine. “Dismissal wasn’t appropriate,” he told NRK. “It’s to do with equality under the law. That he’s 90 doesn’t mean he should be treated differently than others.”
The retired sailor and boat builder said the fines imposed by the court “would hurt.” But he was buoyed by the support he received from fishermen, sailors, and even coast guard employees from all over Norway who’d offered their support. Almost 36,000 people joined a facebook page backing Pedersen, and just before Christmas he was named the “Year’s Nordlander” by regional newspaper Nordlys.