A man, who received a five year prison sentence in June for raping a 17-year-old French girl on Hrísey island last summer, has been let out of prison, RÚV reports. The man forced his way into the tent of the girl, who was traveling the country alone by bike, and raped her. He was in police custody from November of last year until his sentence was handed down in district court in February. That sentence was then appealed to the Supreme Court, which extended it by half a year in June.
Due to a serious illness in his family, he was temporarily allowed to leave prison earlier this month for humanitarian reasons. During this time, he is under no surveillance and does not have to return to prison at night. The law allows for a prison director, with the approval of the Icelandic Prison Service, to be given permission to leave prison to visit a seriously ill family member. Such a leave should only be up to eight hours, but may be extended under special circumstances.
According to DV, the reason for the prisoner’s release is that his girlfriend gave birth to twin boys, who were nine weeks premature, at the end of September. One of them is in serious condition at Landspítali National University Hospital. The prisoner’s girlfriend lives in Akureyri, North Iceland, but the couple was provided an apartment in Reykjavík while their sons are hospitalized.
The prisoner, it turns out, is also under investigation for repeated sexual offenses against an even younger teenage girl on the same island last summer, RÚV reports. Those offenses allegedly were committed over a period of a few months. That victim was only 13 years old at the time. The girl has pressed charges, and the case is being reviewed by a district prosecutor.
The decision to allow the prisoner to walk free appalls District Court Lawyer Helga Vala Helgadóttir, who has served as legal counsel for many victims of sexual abuse. “The way it looks, some kind of mistake must have been made,” she told RÚV. “According to this, he has been on leave [from prison] for some days and some weeks, so I really can’t comprehend it.” Helga Vala continued, “We’re not talking about parole; this is a short-term leave given to the prisoner in question.”
She added, “What I find so serious in this regard is that the victim’s sense of security is completely ruined while she is awaiting a decision on whether he will be charged.”
She concluded that this kind of case undermines people’s trust in the court system. Numerous light sentences have been given for sexual abuse, and many such cases have been dropped. “We don’t need to watch a man,” she stated, “who was sentenced a few months ago to five years in prison, walk around without any surveillance.”