Birkedal cleared over teen sex charges

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Photo: Tommy Ellingsen/Scanpix
15:51 CET+01:00
Trond Birkedal, the 31-year-old former head of the Progress Party’s youth wing, was given a suspended 60-day jail sentence on Thursday for secretly filming naked boys, but was cleared of the most serious charge of having sexual relations with a 15-year-old boy.

Stavanger district court was not able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the prominent politician had a sexual encounter with a then 15-year-old boy at a hotel in Oslo in 2008.

He was also cleared over charges he had sexually abused another 15-year-old boy when he gave him a massage in 2007.

Birkedal confessed to the crimes for which he was convicted. These included secretly filming teenagers as they showered at his home, and several counts of getting teenage boys to perform sex acts in front of webcams.

Birkedal spent 20 days in custody after his arrest, while the court suspended the remaining 40 days of his sentence.

It was a relieved Birkedal who met the press outside a packed Stavanger court on Thursday afternoon.

“I sense the gravity as I stand here with the verdict in my hand. For the first time in my life I have been convicted of a criminal act. My thoughts go, as they have throughout this case, to those I have subjected to something, those who are the victims in this case,” he said.

“At the same time I think the circumstances where I didn’t do anything wrong were clarified very well in court. I’m not surprised, but I am of course very relieved to have been cleared of those.”

A rising star in the populist Progress Party before his spectacular fall from grace last year, Birkedal received some measure of sympathy from the judge, Bjørn Enoksen Ristesund, who said the politician’s fame had blown up the significance of the case out of all proportion.

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“For a long time he has been exposed in a negative way. A picture has been sketched of him as a paedophile,” said the judge.  

Prosecutor Karsten Monsen said he would examine the ruling before deciding whether to lodge an appeal.

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