three pairs of lovers with space

AN INTERVIEW WITH A COUNSEL FOR THE DEFENCE IN GREEK LOVE COURT CASES, DENMARK CA. 1984

 

The following interview is from Forbrydelse uden offer, a Danish psychologists’ study of people involved in adult/child liaisons, mostly Greek love ones, edited by the “Trobriands” collective of authors, published in 1986 and translated from the Danish by Dr. E. Brongersma in 1992 as Crime without Victims.[1]

It is of interest as conveying the information and opinions on Greek love affairs of an intelligent man with considerable professional (but not direct, personal) knowledge and involvement. The Denmark he is describing is of special interest as a country which repressed Greek love, but humanely by the European standards of the time, and where it was still relatively safe and easy to give honest opinions on the subject.

Presented here is the one third of the interview that sheds light on Greek love and attitudes towards it, rather than being simply about legal procedure.

 

Manfred Petersen, attorney:
                                                                                Counsel for the Defence:

"Examining child witnesses is always risky."

What kind of cases do you mostly deal with?

Cases in which men are being prosecuted for having had sexual relations with boys. These could have been boys they had met casually, or they could have been boys with whom they entertained a relationship over a long period of time.

How old are the boys you are talking about?

From 7 to nearly 15[2] - the typical age is about 12 or 13.

[…]

Do you have the impression that the police have a certain moral attitude in these cases, or are they just doing their duty?

I cannot remember ever having discussed moral questions with a police officer, but generally most policemen seem to think that such an offence is something horrible, that it is very serious and should be punished severely. We can say that the tribunals have a more nuanced view. This is also shown by the number of probationary sentences given.

Do you have any opinions about the reaction of the parents in this kind of affair?

Parents react strongly. They are very shocked. This is perhaps a natural reaction, but it is important to inform the parents that these kinds of sexual contacts do not necessarily harm the child. For usually in most of these cases the relationship is entirely consensual - there are so many examples of positive relations, and yet they are nevertheless still punishable. There have been many cases in which the child would have liked to continue the relationship, especially where the child is close to the age of consent. In these cases the age of consent of 15 is unsatisfactory because a relationship is labelled criminal when it is not necessary so. It was therefore proposed to lower the age of consent to 14 years. I do not know if I have enough background to decide what age of consent would be best, but I have no hesitation in saying that am convinced that 14 would be acceptable. I even believe that in many cases a still lower age would be proper.

In Holland, the praxis is normally not to prosecute such relations if the child is over 12 years old, save when there is a question of assault or other adverse circumstances.

This seems a reasonable approach to the problem.

Do you believe this could also be introduced in Denmark?

Yes, I think this could very well be introduced. If the age of consent is fluid we'll have problems, but also in other areas we have a provision where it is left to the judge's discretion whether an offence has been committed or not. It is ultimately up to the court to decide whether the contact had been entirely voluntary, so that the accused would be acquitted in those cases in which there was no assault.

A statue in Copenhagen

[…]

How severe is the punishment in most of these cases?

This depends on several things. For example, the child's age is taken into consideration. Whether the child is younger than twelve or between twelve and fifteen. They take into consideration what actually happened, whether there was some act resembling intercourse - in other words, whether there was insertion of the penis in the child's anus or vagina. Also whether there was a single act, or whether there were more than one child involved and a number of contacts. They might also take the man's personal situation into consideration - whether he lived an orderly life, whether this was his first appearance before the courts, had he been sentenced before, etc. If he is a first-time offender, the sentence will be under probation in a large number of cases. If the man has already been sentenced for similar offences, he probably can count on an unconditional sentence of four months to one year of imprisonment.

[…]

How do you think the child experiences this whole procedure?

I think it is a very heavy burden for a child to pass through the legal machinery and to make a statement to the police. I even believe we may say it is at least as big a burden for the child to have to do this as the sexual relation itself, particularly if we are dealing with entirely consensual contacts.

Is it difficult for children to understand why their friend is being sent to prison?

I do not talk with the children, but I do indeed believe that many of them have a hard time understanding why their friend must be imprisoned. I know cases in which the relationship was resumed after the case was finished.

Does the boy ever keep up contact with the paedophile during the period he is detained in prison?

Yes, there are examples of that.

 

[1] Published by Global Academic Publishers, Amsterdam in 1993.

[2] “Nearly 15” would have been the maximum, since 15 was the age of homosexual consent for boys in Denmark after 1976.

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