1999. From a letter commenting on questionable interview techniques for children in alleged sexual abuse cases with reference to the Finnish so-called Niko-case

February 8, 1999

From my letter to an English journalist with reference to  the so called Niko-case in Finland, commenting on questionable interview techniques for children in alleged sexual abuse

I have written a short summary mostly from judge Swinton-Thomas J that I plan to include in my written statement in the Finnish case. It´s a sad fact that this method has been imported and been applied and  caused childen great damage, in Finland, in Norway and in Sweden. Did I tell you that the Finnish trial in itself, and of course the outcome, is  very important? Seven psychiatrists, psychologísts  and the city of Helsinki are charged in a criminal case by the boy´s parents because of the maltreatment the boy suffered. Hopefully the trial will be finished this spring.

The British journalist you recommended to contact me about Münchhausen by proxy I have not yet answered. I am waiting for a statement from the scientific council connected to the National Board of Health in Sweden on this issue (Münchhausen by proxy  has, it seems, become a ”trend diagnosis”).

Comments concerning Dr Bentowim´s methods of interviewing children, taken from authentic cases reported in  FLR 1987

In 1986 the methods developed by Arnon Bentowim and implied by the Finnish therapists, trained by Bentowim and his team,  were critisized in several British cases. The summary below is based on the extracts puplished in FLR1987. All the facts and decriptions are taken from this source and as far as I can see the aspects taken up  are relevant in the present case.

How can it be that methods that judges and psychiatrists in Great Britain already in the middle of the eighties put up serious warnings against could have been imported to Finland and adopted there by professionals? The present case is a case where  sexual abuse is  alleged with no external evidence – and it´s in these cases you have to be very careful, not to cause the child damage.


About 500 children were referred to the child sexual abuse clinic at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, London  between 1981, when the clinic started and, 1986, when a critical discussion about their methods started.

Dr Arnon Bentowim, head of the clinic, considered to be a pioneer in UK, was inspired by American equivalants, when he developed his techniques for interviewing sexually abused children. Miss Tranter, psychological social worker, who has been in the clinic since 1981 and has conducted many interviews (married to Dr Bentowim)  has explained that the clinic found sexual abuse in approximateley 95 % of the cases during this period of time.

The majority of cases referred to the clinic were said to be cases with already existing external evidence, cases where for example there had been a conviction or an admission or physical medical evidence. The second category were cases where there was nothing more than a combination (´constellation´) of alerting symtoms. These cases were said to be in minority. The basic technique was begun about 1981 and the use of anatomically complete dolls was introduced 1984-1985.

A dilemma

The needs of clinical therapeutic methods may not be the best to meet the needs of the courts in legal proceedings.

To help children  to unburden themselves by talking about the abuse they are said to have experienced has been seen as a therapeutic task.

The result of an investigative technique to detect if abuse has ocurred or not is biased if the investigator preconceives that abuse has taken place. This, on the other hand, has been considered to be necessary to help the children to unburden themselves. To make children make statements against their parents Bentowim and his team have  considered it necessary to put the children under pressure and to use a leading or hypothetical form of inquiry. But this technique lays itself open to attack upon the ground that it has suggested the answers given. When a child is put under pressure it is a risk that the child will say that something has happened which has not in fact occurred.

Judge Swinton-Thomas got the transcript of miss Tranter´s interview with IN, a girl 6 years old, living in a fosterhome where the fosterparents suspected sexual abuse in the girl´s home. The little girl  was asked questions about the second defendant, her mother´s cohabittee.

–                    Did he put it in a little way or a long way?

IN shrugged her shoulders.

–                    What sort of willie did he have? Was it a soft, squiggy willie or a hard willie?

IN:                 Hard.

–                    Hard?

IN:                 Yes.

–                    And when he put it in your little hole how did you like that?

IN:                 ?

IN:                 No he didn´t do it.

–                    When he put it in there did that sometimes make you feel sore?

IN shrugged her shoulders.

–                    Did it sometimes hurt?

IN:                No, he never really did it to me.

–                    But when he did do it, was it a nice feeling or a yucky feeling?

IN:                 Yucky.

–                    Oh, a jucky feeling, and did it hurt you sometimes?

IN:                 He didn´t do it to me.

There are many more excerpts from the transcript when for example miss Tranter names the dolls and asks hypothetical questions. Here is from a passage about masturbation:

–                    I think you have been very clear. Did he ever want you to touch his willie?

IN:                 No.

–                    If he had done how would he have liked you to touch it? Could you show me                        with my hand because there aren´t any  fingers on this doll. Could you show                        me  how? Use  my hand to  show me how he would like you to touch it? Tell                        me? Would  he like you to  touch it with one finger?

IN:                 One.

–                    One finger, and would he like you to keep your finger still or move it round a                        bit. How would he like you to move it? I´ll let my finger go limp. Could you just                      move my finger and show  me how he would like you to touch it?

IN giggled and there was a quick touching of the finger that was interpreted by miss Tranter as a masturbatory gesture, something that Dr Kahn, a psychiatrist ,was very critical to in his evidence.

Judge Swinton Thomas commented as he stressed that it would be wrong in the context of one particular case to make any overall cricism of those methods :

”It will be readily seen from the passages that I have read that considerable pressure was brought to bear upon the child. Miss Tranter said in evidence that it was necessary to do so because of the trauma suffered by the child in relation to the acts of indecency, and, accordingly, the view of the unit at Great Ormond Street, is that it is necessary to match that trauma by placing an equal degree of pressure on the child  in order to make the child talk about was has occurred. The object is to get children to talk about what has happened, and that is, of course very laudable. However there must, in my view, using that technique, be a very real risk, that the child will say that something has occurred which has not. It is common ground that the technique is, to some extent, still in experimental stages and as at the moment I must have some reservations as to whether the technique of interviewing children does necessarily elicit the truth.”

The social worker came to a very firm conclusion that the cohabitee had sexually assaulted the girl in some five different ways and that the mother had condoned it. The expert also considered that there were would be a high risk of further  abuse if the child were returned home.

However the judge came to the conclusion that the best interest of the child would be served by returning the child to her mother, as quickly as possible.

Two psychiatrists  made critical statements in this case, dr Connel and dr Kahn, both previous chairmen of the Child and Adolscence sections of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

According to judge Swinton-Thomas dr Connel said in relation to the suggestibility of the child that the technique that was used horrified him. Dr Connel questioned both the scientific and the clinical value of the technique. He said in his evidence:

”It is my view that it should be considered  unethical to use this technique as an exploratory techniqe in the case of non-admitted child abuse.”

In his evidence dr Kahn said about the interview with IN:

In every instance it was assumed that the suggested activity had actually taken place. I have been seriously concerned about the way in which any spontaneous activity of the child was firmly discouraged and that she was repeatedly brought back to the particular subject that the questioner had in mind. It is easier to lead a subject, adult or child, ta an answer that is predetermined in the questioner´s mind.”

Dr Bentowim, after having seen part of the video, said in his evidence that it was very important that the child´s statement should be regarded as the primary evidence. According to the judge dr Bentowim had ”recognized the dangers of this technique producing an answer which might turn out on investigation to be the wrong answer. He also recognized, as I understood it, that the technique as an investigative tool was still, to some extent, in the experimetnal stage.”

My comments

It is said by judge Swinton-Thomas J that no overall criticism of these methods can be made from one single case. But as the same criticism has been repeated in several cases there is substantial ground to conclude that these methods applied as a diagnostic instrument  to decide whether sexual abuse has taken place or not, is not to be recommended.

A technique of questioning where the interrogator has preconeived ideas about what has happened and wants to help the child to tell about that (secret of abuse) clashes with the principle of basic requirement of justice that nobody should have to face a finding of serious misconduct without the opportunity of having the allegations against him/her  clearly specified and cogently proved.

The use of hypothetical questions, so called if-questions, see example above, has been very strongly critizised by ”Statsadvokaten” /State prosecutors/ in Norway in a report from 1994. The background for this was that Tilman Fürniss, a colleague to Bentowim  in Great Ormond Street  trained professionals in the Nic Waal institute in Oslo. They thereafter questioned preschool children in a  village on the cost of Norway called Bjugn  with this questionable technique (when sexual abuse was alleged to have occurred in a daycare center).

As a psychologist I also strongly want to question the therapeutic value of this technique. A child who in fact has experienced sexual abuse is not helped with this kind of questions. That child needs to talk to someone who puts open ended questions and takes the time to listen to what the child has to tell with that child´s own words.

It was in August 1990 that dr Bentowim and his team gave lectures for  three of the involved helpers in the Finnish case. The way psychiatrist Liisa Kohvakka and psychologist  May Stenberg have put questions to the Finnsh boy, at that time four years old, have similarities to the techniques that have been referred and critisized in the British cases.

The helpers had preconceived ideas that sexual abuse had taken place in the family and they asked leading questions, forced the boy, the alleged victim of sexual abuse, to play with  anatomic dolls and put him under big pressure over and over again.

Although the child never said anything about abuse that had taken place in his home, they interpreted the child  as an incestvictim. With no substantial ground other than their own fantasies they assessed the risk that Niko might be subjected to acts of sexual indecency in his home so big that he should not be allowed to stay with his family, not even to be alone with any of his parents under access.

Damage has been occasioned to the boy by removing him from the care of his parents and from his only brother.

LHS 1999, Döden är en man, efter refusering av en längre artikel om Per Lindebergs bok

Du kommer kanske ihåg det som kallades styckmordsmålet på 1990-talet? Den s.k. allmänläkarens dotter avskildes från sin pappa. Det var en far som mamman riktat obekräftade incestanklagelser mot, och som hon därefter anklagade för att ha mördat Catrine da Costa tillsammans med den obducent som en gång bjudits hem till dem på middag som tack för att han lät den s.k allmänläkaren i efterhand komplettera kursmoment han missat där obducenten varit lärare.

Fallet rörde upp väldigt många känslor och klargjorde motsättningar mellan dem som trodde (tror) att mäns sexualiserade våld mot kvinnor och barn är roten till det mesta onda, och dem som menade att sakförhållandena i varje enskilt fall, också detta, måste utredas sakligt och opartiskt, inte utifrån förutfattade meningar. LHS skrev en artikel till PsykologTidningen när Per Lindebergs bok om styckmordet var färsk. Artiekeln refuserades, och LHS gjorde ett försök med en mycket kort recension, men minns inte längre om den publicerades eller inte. Först återges brevet till de dåvarande redaktörerna för PsykologTidningen.


Till Eva Brita Järnefors, Täby 22 februari 1999

Maja Ahlroos och Mats Karlsson



Efter dagens telefonsamtal med Eva-Brita Järnefors får jag ge er rätt i att min recension mer hade karaktär av debattinlägg. När jag nu ändå lagt ned mycket tid och arbete på att läsa hela denna bok vill jag att det åtminstone ska bli en tumme. Således sänder jag här en kort recension helt utan argumentation och konkret sakkritik och utan några namn nämnda, och hoppas att denna ”tumme” kommer med i detta nummer.

Med vänlig hälsning

Lena Hellblom Sjögren


Döden är en man

Journalisten Per Lindeberg har skrivit en bok om det som kallas styckmålet (Döden är en man, historien om obducenten och allmänläkaren, Fischer & Co 1999).

I boken introduceras först obducenten, den styckade Catrine, allmänläkarens fru kallad mamman, hennes man och därefter olika ögonvittnen. Komplexiteten växer genom att samma händelser belyses ur olika människors perspektiv. Bara någon gång blir det en upprepning eftersom historien rekonstrueras på ständigt nya sätt beroende vems perspektiv som behandlas. Det är ett skickligt berättargrepp och psykologiskt intressant.

Källorna finns redovisade i slutet av boken under rubriken referenser, förmodligen därför att författaren velat hålla berättelsen igång utan störande avbrott. Som forskare kan jag dock ibland sakna mer exakta referenser i omedelbar anslutning till framställningen. Det hade varit bra med en tidstablå med de viktigaste händelserna redovisade, eftersom det är svårt att hålla reda på alla händelser, utlåtanden, rättegångar och tidsrelationerna dem emellan.

Lindeberg skildrar alla involverade personer inklusive Catrine, andra prostituerade och mamman med detaljer från deras arbete och personliga liv, som gör att man tycker sig förstå dem och deras handlande. Han skildrar också initierat alla led i polisens olika undersökningar och de spår man följer upp och dem man lämnar. Han går i detalj igenom de olika sakkunnigutlåtanden som beställs och åberopas av åklagaren. Han redovisar också kritiken som vartefter formulerades mot samtliga de fyra utlåtanden som utgjorde bevisning mot läkarna. De anklagades för både mord och styckning av Catrine da Costa och polisen försökte i olika omgångar få dem att erkänna. Lindeberg återger utdrag ur olika förhör med dem, liksom han beskriver deras liv och arbete.

Det är ett myller av sakuppgifter, dock systematiskt genomgångna, ur vilka växer en bild av stora brister i utredningarna under de år detta mål pågått. Lindebergs uppgifter om hur poliserna som intervjuade närmare 200 prostituerade förmodligen påverkade dem genom att visa tydligt intresse för bild nummer fyra, föreställande obducenten, hans uppgifter om hur fotohandlarparet fick hjälp av att resonera sig fram då de skulle identifiera allmänläkaren, hans redogörelse för den förhandsinformation som de psykologiska experterna hade och hur den återfinns i deras undersökning och utlåtande.

Hans detaljerade redogörelser för den sakligt underbyggda kritiken mot samtliga sakkunnigutlåtanden, allt detta och mycket mer som ryms i den nästan 700 sidor tjocka boken, kan svårligen avfärdas som en partsinlaga. Om Lindeberg från början hade valt att se hela skeendet ur obducentens eller allmänläkarens, eller båda dessa anklagades, perspektiv och bortsett från uppgifter som talade till deras nackdel då hade han varit partisk. Det Lindeberg har gjort i sin bok är emellertid en granskning av alla väsentliga uppgifter i målet. Efter denna granskning kommer han fram till att det här är fråga om ett justitiemord. Och det gör han på ett övertygande sätt.

Lena Hellblom Sjögren

Letter January 1999 about worries regarding repeated questioning and repression/dissociation

Professor Graham Davies                                              Täby January 20, 1999

Dear Graham,

Thanks for the letter I got after the Krakow conference. As I know you are a very busy person I apologize for writing such a long letter. And please forgive my ”swinglish.”

I do not have any results in English to present. I should very much like to deepen the discussion about how to interrogate children  the best way, ”best” in reference to the    child´s needs and to the need of having as reliable information as possible from the child. One project that I have come to think of for  the future is to analyze how the children in the ”Kevin-case” (se below) were questioned and interpreted.

Yesterday there was a program on the radio about little Kevin,  killed in August 1998 in a little town in the middle of Sweden,  probably by his mates when playing. The police in charge for the investigation told about how they first thought Kevin had drowned, then that he was a pedofile´s victim. After several weeks they suspected that he had been killed by some other children. Something they now consider a fact. About 140 children were interrogated, according to the police. Although many children had been down at the lake the day of Kevin´s death, they had not earlier been interrogated about what they had done or seen.

When I first heard about all these children being interrogated  I phoned the police and asked if I could have copies of the interrogations as I was a researcher investigating children´s statements. He told me about the great help he had from Sven-Åke Christiansson and psychologists and psychiatrists from a local clinic. The police explained to me that he had now learnt that it takes time to remember and that you have to help children remember by asking them over and over again. An evaluation was going to be made by Christiansson and the clinical experts who had been involved, he said.

If I wanted to have access to the material I ought to write an application. So far I have not done that – I want to ask for your opinion and if there could be a chance of you being interested to somehow cooperate in a research project  (although I am not linked to any institution or university and is considered to be controversial).

Back to the broadcasting program. Two brothers had told their parents when they came home the day of the murder, accordning to the police, that ´Kevin is floating down among the reeds.´ After months of repeated questioning, often in 6-7 hour-sessions, where the actual interrogation of perhaps 1 hour was videotaped, the police and his helpers got all the details, the police said in the program. Helpers were both female and males picked out by the police, supervised by Christiansson.  Christiansson had looked at the videotaped sessions and then told the police what was relevant and what was from the setting around the boys, explained the police.

How where  two brothers picked out as  perpetrators? There was no information about that. Had any of all the other 138 children been on the police station for whole days, eating and playing to create an atmosphere of telling, such as the one created for the two brothers they wanted to help to tell about what happened?  What had the other children and the two brothers actually said? How were the questions put?

The real task, said Christiansson in  the program, is to create a safe setting so that the children feel comfortable and can tell.  It is important that there are people the children can trust and who dare receive the horrible memories the children tell about, he said. You cannot expect a child to tell freely, he said. Children need ”reference information”, they need questions. He told about body memories and how they had helped the two brothers tell by taking them out to the place of the crime repeatedly. Christiansson explained to the journalist, that all his recommendations and all that had been done in this case was founded on strict research (not any research that I know of). As this was a single event there was no risk with leading questions as there can be when interrogating  children about repeated  sexual abuse, Christiansson explained. These two boys had shut something inside that hey acted out the day of the crime, he explained.

When asked what the role of the interrogator is Christiansson answered that it was to be a supervisor so that the children feel that they can tell and be confirmed (not as I see it to find out as close as possible what actually happened).

Such an attitude makes it legitimate to ask closed questions. To deepen the discussion and as a background to my concern about how children are being interrogated I want  to give some information about Christiansson´s new book written together with a police who has become a researcher under Christianssons supervision and a female psychology student who he is also supervising, ”Advanced interrogation-and interview methods” (Natur och Kultur, Stockholm 1998, ).

The book  is recommended by the director for the criminal police in Sweden  to be used in the training of policemen nationwide. This worries me. Christiansson et al state, thereby  teaching policemen how to think ”psychology” (in the speculative psychodynamic tradition, p.271, my translation):

”In the cases where you have perpetrators with psychogen amnesia you can see a tendency to a certain behaviour. It´s often individuals that during their childhood have not been  confirmed by their parents, never have considered          themselves as seen and therefore have learnt to shut off the feelings of abondonment and deceit that was the consequence. Following this they learnt how to establish and master a  behaviour which imply that they can shut  their feelings on  and off as they apprehend the situation calls for that kind of  defense reaction.

Therefore they can comit serious crimes and  shut off the actions from their consciousness by help of the shut off automacy they so  cleverly handle.”  

What worries me most is that this book includes so called

”facts” about dissociation stating that experiences of for example sexual abuse can be separated from other ”memory information.” I quote

If an experience is so traumatic that you cannot get mental  control over your experience, this can lead to dissociative  reactions, and sometimes to following problems with  remembering the event.”(p 78)

These authors  present  MPD, Multiple Personality Disorder, as a form of psychogen amnesia (p.255), which in turn is explained as a defense reaction:

When an experience gives rise to emotional stress that is overwhelming, and takes on unbearable proportions, a defense reaction is automatically put on. ”

This is then described as a state where you do not have access to your memories, you cannot pick your memories out – and need help to do that (somethin S-Å Christiansson helped the alleged serial killer Tomas Quick alias Sture Bergwall to do).

Combining  the cognitive method to help people remember more with these unscientific speculations about repression/dissocation is  dangerous, as I see it. Do you agree? It makes it legitimate for policemen and others to help those questioned to remember events that have never happened, by helping them to remember what happened when they ”dissociated” – something you as an interrogator influenced by Christiansson, Putnam, van der Kolk and others Christiansson refers to seem to take for granted.

The message repeated is that it takes time to remember. The best way of interrogating is therefore, it´s argued, to question repeated times and have long sessions  as Christiansson himself has had with Thomas Quick, a person who has confessed a long series of murders. This person has been encouraged by Christiansson to imagine himself to be directing a film as a method of helping him remember.  Christiansson has also, when giving lectures to policemen and social workers, and when interviewed in the press, stated that you have to put leading questions to a child, because the problem is to get the child to tell. This was also said by him concerning the Kevin-murder investigation.

As far as I know Christianssons recommendations are against Swedish and international  recommendations for interrogation and must be questioned from all we know about suggestibility. But the problem is that this is not a question about rational arguments. A policeman on the seminar about true or false memories in Stockholm in June 1998 summarized what it´s all about. She said that she believed in repression. To hear her now say that she believes in dissociation would be no improvement.

1994 LHS letter to Martin Orne. Admixture of facts and fantasy

From a letter to Martin T Orne, MD. PhD, Professor written by Lena Hellblom Sjögren  June 11 1994


”Dear Professor Orne,

How very kind and thoughtful of you to send me all these interesting articles and references you did. THANK YOU! I cannot tell you how thankful I am. Forgive me for not having answered until now. With two small children (2 and 4 ), travelling, and a big investigation going on to be finished I have not had time to read all the material you sent me.

The first thing I did was to go through it and pick out and read what I thought could be good to send to the Swedish Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. Together with a letter where I quoted the wise words from you and Brad L Bates about not viewing remote memories as accurate history but as an admixture of fact and fantasy ( a copy of the letter enclosed). I sent the material you can see listed last in my letter. The extracts I made from your letter is enclosed here as well.

The translation of your guidelines that I made in the criminal case I told you about is enclosed as well as a copy of the verdict. Campbell Perry has asked me to write about this particular case and I´ll hopefully do that this summer. On my suggestion the defence called in Lars-Eric Uneståhl as an expert witness to tell what he knew in general about forensic hypnosis. In his book about hypnosis he has summarized your guidelines – short but good. My impression was that he was very strict and gave grounded information.

The hypnosis expert appointed by the court , dr Ture Arvidssson, on the other hand was allowed to make statements about the concret hypnosis all along the court sessions. He repeated what he had written in a written statement where he had declared that the hypnosis in this case fullfilled all reasonable recommendations. I do not think that would have been your conclusion. The tampering with evidence/memory is obvious in this case. There was no physical evidence or corroboration of any kind for the alleged rapes and other abuses from the father .

The hypno therapeut in this case seems obsessed by the thought of her clients having been orally sexually abused and one proof of it – among others – is that the girls don´t want to eat yoghurt! She has developed a hypnosis method of her own for incest victims.

Since this case I haven´t heard of any more criminal cases where hypnosis has been involved, but there are two actual cases where young women have accused their fathers (and in one case the mother) for horrible ritual abuses – things they have started to remember after having come to foster mothers or experts who are members in the informal network of people who exaggerate the frequency of child sexual abuse and claim that they work for the best of the children by believing them. They often believe that the children have been abused – although they haven´t.

In one case the father who had been condemned to 10 years in prison was recently acquitted, the other father just got his sentence shortened from 10 years to 5 years and the mother who had got 5 years was acquitted. Hopefully the Supreme Court will allow a new trial for this last father.

Also very much thank you for the FMS-material which I can distribute as I have recently got another set from Pamela Freyd whom I met in Washington DC in April on a very interesting seminar for defense lawyers (”Incest – the deadliest accusation”). There are adult children here in Sweden also who accuse their parents for having sexually abused them in their childhood. I have got some letters from desperate parents who tell about such allegations – often after their daughters have been in therapy. There have been no trials as far as I know but biographic books and other testimonies that also contribute to the ”incredible contagion” you write about.

A book which describes and analyzes this contagion as a result of an effective networking is First do no harm. The child sexual abuse industry. (Benton-Guy Publishing Box 46-018, Auckland, New Zealand). The author, Felicity Goodyear – Smith, has unique experiences as a medical doctor working for the police with child sexual abuse and after that as a close relative to three inprisoned alleged ”perpetrators”.

Doctors and therapists ought to be legally responsible for their – I´d say – criminal acts. The consequences of their acting is often irreparable damages to children and families. One example from one case I investigated recently is a psychiatrist who meets a young newly separated mother for the first time. The mother says that she the last couple of days has started suspecting her husband of having sexually abused their two preschool daughters. The doctor tells the mother to keep the children away from their ”bio-father” and to start a law suit. After more than 2 1/2 years now the girls have not seen their father – although he has been acquitted as not guilty since more than half a year.

It seems as though many professionals are highly suggestible and have become believers in the desinformation that is spread world wide. One is the misconception of high frequency of child sexual abuse. When I have studied the investigations and statistics my conclusion is that 2-7 of 1000 children under the age of 15 can be estimated to have been sexually abused.

Once more thank you. Yours sincerely


April 2014: A letter to PASG (Parental Alienation Study Group) about recent verdicts from Sweden where one parent has resisted contact for the children with the other parent without a substantiated cause, and has lost custody because of that


Report from Lena Hellblom Sjögren, April 2014:

Some verdicts from Sweden where one parent has resisted contact for the children with the other parent without a substantiated  cause, and has lost custody because of that


In Sweden the concept of parental alienation is not yet accepted, not by the National Board of Medicine and Welfare, not by the Swedish Psychological Association, not by the Child and Youth Psychiatric organization, and not by the Swedish Save the Children.[1]  But there are some  family law lawyers, some judges and some social workers who through  their work have gained  insight about children suffering in high conflict separation cases where one parent  acts as if the child also has to separate from the other  parent.

The solutions found are different; mostly the alienating parent who takes control over the children gains sole custody and the children lose the other parent in their life. This is, as far as I have seen, often due to the  application of the principle of continuity, and the belief that a change would disturb what is called the child´s need of peace and quiet.

The loss of a parent, who has done no harm to the child, but due to the other parent´s implacable hostility[2]  towards that parent, causes the child constant stress. Constant stress  influences the immune system; thus causing the child not only psychological, but also  physical damages. [3]

Some Swedish verdicts will be presented, none of them speaking explicitly of parental alienation, but practically demonstrating insight about  the child´s need of close contact with both parents, and therefore giving sole custody to the parent who shares that insight.


Stockholms tingsrätt/District Court Stockholm, Verdict 2nd of July 2012 in case no. T 19036-10

Family: Mother, father met 2004, married 2005, got a son in summer 2006, and twin daughters in spring 2008.

Incidents: Mother moved with the children autumn 2008. Accused father of having physically abused her.  Applied for and received secret identity – and also sole custody. Father was sentenced against his denial to four months in prison (he has taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights). Mother accused father of having sexually abused the son, police and prosecutor did not believe her. Father was to have visitation rights with the children. Mother resisted, also after she had been sentenced to pay a fine that also was raised by a court decision  every time she didn´t let the children meet with their father.

Claims to the court: The mother wanted sole custody, or shared  custody and the children living with her, and no visitation rights  for the father with the children.

The father  wanted  sole custody, or shared custody and the children living with him, and visitation rights  for the mother with the children.

The verdict: Sole  custody of the children  to the father and visitation rights for the mother with the children every second weekend from Friday at 3 p.m. to Sunday 3 p.m.

Excerpts from the reasons given by the court for this verdict  (my translation):

The judgment of the child´s best interests cannot be done according to a model, but must always be made after a total judgment including all circumstances. Some circumstances are thus of a kind that they never are allowed to be forgotten. Such a condition is the child´s need of a close and good contact with both parents…

In a case like this it must be considered that there can be strong contradictions between the parts after a history of a relation filled with conflicts, and that worries from one part can be real without at the same time being justified. Therefore  more must be demanded than just a statement about the child not being well…

It shall here be stressed that the starting point in custody conflicts is that the parent who is considered the best to encourage a good contact between the child and the other parent is the one that shall be given custody. Destroying visitations must be seen as something serious and can lead to a change of custody to the other parent…

It seems obvious for this court that it is the mother´s actions that is behind the fact that no visitations have occurred and that her wish is to exclude the children from contact with their father…

The court can come to no other conclusion than that the mother has tried – and succeeded – in preventing the children´s visitation with their father…

The children´s statements of violence in summary appear as learnt. Also it ought to be noted that the mother during the five police interrogations with her in connection with her leaving the home on the 25th of September 2008 not once mentioned that the father had used violence against the children…

Seen against a background – that she is the mother of children hiding from a perpetrator who wants to hurt them – the mother is surely making a very good job. But the court has found that there is no reason to live hidden.


Lycksele tingsrätt/District Court Lycksele,  Verdict 12th of July 2013 in case no. T 594-12

Family: The same as in the verdict of July 2012 above.

What happened after the verdict  of July 2012 giving sole custody to the father?

The children met with their father for the first time in 4 years on the 25th of August in 2012 together with a person appointed by the social services to supervise their contact. After the visit the mother called that person and claimed that the father had abused the boy.  From the 5th of  October  2012 the mother kept the children in her home. When the father came to a  visit which had been decided by the court, the mother cancelled it. She also informed the social services, that was in charge in the community where she had moved to with the children, that she had no intentions to cooperate in planning a movement for the children to their father as decided by the court.

The social services in the community where the father lived decided on the 10th of October 2012 to take the children into forced custody, and the children were placed in a temporary foster home together with the person who had supervised the few visits the father had had. As the father agreed to the placement  the forced custody was taken away; the father moved into that home after two days, and stayed there with the children for one month. After that intermediate transition the children went home to the father´s home, where they slowly started  kindergarten and school while the father had taken free from his work.

A quote referring information from the father:

When he met the children in the temporary foster home they said that their father was dead and in heaven. “ Daddy /called by his first name/” was something else, something horrible. The boy was acting out, wild and without boundaries and decided over the sisters who were rather passive and retracted. When he first came the boy was afraid and hid himself in his cap . The fear went away after some days. The girls came and hit him and said: Mummy has said that you hit us when we were babies….

Legal facts: The mother filed complain against  the verdict from July 2012 to the higher court in the Stockholm area, but that court decided not to try the case again. After the decision of taking the children into forced custody the local court decided preliminarily  to give the mother certain visitation rights under supervision.

The mother later sued the father to have sole custody to the same local court, in the area where she had moved with the children and stayed hidden from the father for several years. If the court decided shared custody she wanted the children to stay with her, or on the third hand she demanded shared and equal residence. The father resisted all her demands but agreed to her seeing the children one weekend per month, 10 am to 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays under supervision.

The verdict: continued sole custody for the father, and visitation rights for the mother  until July 2015 under supervision with the children one weekend a month: Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm.


Gävle tingsrätt/District Court Gävle, Verdict 12th of July 2013 in case no. T 3248-11

Family: The child, a girl was born in early spring 2004. The father  had a son from an earlier relation who was 12 years old in summer 2005  when he and the mother separated. The daughter at that time was 1.5 years old.

Background: The  parents had different explanations for their separation, referred in the verdict.  According to the father the mother was jealous when he occupied himself with his son, for example played football. She asked him to choose which family he preferred, he said he could not give up his son, and wanted to be a present father also for his daughter. The mother claimed that they separated  for the same reason, as she said, their daughter is afraid of the father: the father according to the mother had abused her physically and mentally.

Sole custody was given to the mother with visitation rights for the father. The mother wanted to be present, or have her father present during visitation. It didn´t function. The mother explained that for every visitation it had become more and more obvious that the daughter was not well on these occasions and didn´t want to see her father  The mother consulted  some people in the organization “Children´s Right in Society” (BRIS= Barnens Rätt I Samhället) and got support for the  standpoint  that it is not right to force the girl to see her father . She claimed she had seen that the girl feels much better when it has been calm and no visitations. The maternal grandmother  testified that it must be the child´s decision if she wants to see her father; you cannot force a child, what a child wants you have to respect.

As the years went by, the father gave different suggestions how to reestablish contact with the  daughter to the mother, for example by inviting the daughter and her classmates when it was time for lambs; the father had 230 sheep, but it did not happen. The mother told the school staff that the father should not be allowed to the daughter´s school. The father asked the mother to have  a picture of their daughter for many years, but didn´t receive any.

The verdict: sole custody to the father .

Statements made by the court for this verdict:

The mother and her parents have given a nearly implacable black picture of the father. The maternal grandmother has told that ´she speaks about /the father´s  full name/ as little as possible´ and that she doesn´t use the word father about him…

The court sees a worrying pattern of halfhearted attempts to establish contact between daughter and father that – consciously or unconsciously – have been sabotaged. The court states that it is just as bad independently of whether it is consciously or unconsciously . Regarding what is in the best interests of  the child that is an irrelevant question…

The mother as sole custodian has a particular responsibility to establish a well founded emotional contact for the daughter with her father…

Apparently – consciously or unconsciously – the mother and her parents are not capable to realize the serious consequences for the child not to have a loving relationship with her father…

It requires an honest engagement in the sense that the father  consequently is mentioned positively as an important person for the child, to love and be loved by. The mother´s stubborn referrals to quarrels in history depict a lack of ability, or unwillingness, to separate her own opinion of the father and experiences in her relation with him, from the child´s need of both her parent.


Hovrätten För Nedre Norrland/Appellation Court for the south part of the north of Sweden/, Verdict the 13th of December 2013 in case no. T 929-13

Family: the same as in the verdict above from the lower court, Gävle tingsrätt. The mother had complained and her complaint had been supported by the superior court.

Verdict: The superior court confirms the verdict from the lower court (sole custody to the father).

Reasons given by this higher  court for this verdict:

The mother has as an explanation for the daughter´s reluctance to meet her father said to be that the daughter has experienced how the father has physically and mentally abused the mother. After she was 18 months old the daughter and the mother have not met the father together without another person being present. The traumatic events that should  still influence the daughter´s behavior according to this should have happened before that. According to the court  this explanation for the daughter´s behavior does not appear as plausible…

Independently of what the daughter could have expressed regarding her will to see her father the court  is of the  opinion that there is  no foundation to expect something else than that she, as most children, has a need of a close and good contact also with her father. By restraining the daughter from getting a close contact with her father without acceptable reasons,  the mother has evidently not lived up to her responsibility as a parent. Moreover there is an impending risk that the mother also in the future will act accordingly. The preconditions for the daughter to have a good relation with her father therefore appear as small if the mother is sole custodian for her…

The mother and the father live pretty close to each other something that might imply  that  changes concerning school, friends  and alike  do not have to arise. It has been made clear that the father is prepared to let the transfer take the time that is needed for the daughter and that he is willing to cooperate in the planning the social services consider appropriate to facilitate the transfer of custody…

The problems that can arise in connection with a transfer of custody are considered to be of a temporary  nature at the same time as it can be presupposed that it in a longer perspective is  in the daughter´s best interests that preconditions are created for her to have a close and good relation with both her parents.”


Varbergs tingsrätt/Varberg District Court, verdict the 23rd of December 2013 in case no. T 816-09

Family: Daughter born 2004, her parents separated when she was 2 years old.

Legal incidents: Father requested visitation rights in court in spring 2006 after the separation.

The court in spring 2008 gave sole custody to the mother and visitation rights every second week for the father.

In spring 2009 the father sued the mother to have shared custody when there had been no contact between the daughter and  him.

The court , after recommendation from the social services that had made references to alleged sexual abuse, decided that the mother should keep sole custody and that there should be no visitation rights for the father. After police investigations ended in autumn 2009 without any substantiation regarding  the mother´s accusations towards the father of  having  sexually abused the daughter, the court gave some visitation rights back to  the father. The mother claimed that the daughter behaved in a worrying way in connection with visitation. The mother demanded to be present or close to her daughter during visitation with the father.

The visitations stopped in spring 2010. A psychologist made an investigation; she was quoted in the verdict: Extensive research results imply that a child needs to have contact with both parents not to risk among other things his or her mental well-being or problems with drug addiction…. In this context it is important to know that the will expressed by the child can be the result of suggestive influences.

The girl was placed in an institution together with her parents as part of a social investigation, the mother interrupted her stay  there and took the daughter with her. As it was found out that there could be a risk for the mother preparing  to go abroad with the daughter, the court made a preliminary decision  about joint  custody for the parents in December 2010.

The mother moved to another city.  New investigations were made by new social workers there. A second mediator was appointed  by the court to help the daughter meet with her father. She  (a social worker) reported that she could not get the girl to come with her to see the father.

In spring 2013 the court decided to give sole custody to the father and to make the mother pay 50 000 SEK if she had not on a certain day come with the daughter to the institution for the social investigation.

The mother filed complaint to the superior court and requested inhibition. This was not accepted. The mother refused to follow the verdict. The mother took the daughter  to different doctors and there were reports about severe attacks of panic. The lower court decided to execute the verdict and ask the police to assist in taking the child from the mother.

The verdict: sole custody to the father.

The mother´s demands to have certain visitation rights were not accepted and she was condemned to pay 75 000 SEK of the father´s costs in court together with her lawyer Eva Kornhall. [4]


Göta Hovrätt/Appelation Court for the nothern part of the south Sweden/, verdict  on the 10th of March 2014, in case no T289-13

Family and background: Mother moved to Norway after separation in 2009.  She and the father  – they have four children (born 1993, 1995, 1997, 2000) – agreed on having the two youngest living with them in turns.  The youngest daughter moved to the mother in Norway in 2010. An escalating conflict arose since the parents could not agree on the rights for their youngest son to have regular contact (visitation) with his father in Sweden. The son born in 2000 stayed with his mother in Norway when he had celebrated Christmas there in 2012. He, or the mother, sent an sms to the father on the 4th of January: Hello dad. A /the name of the son/ wants to live with mum now and go to school there. The son was kept in Norway by his mother, he got problems in school, as he didn´t speak Norwegian. Already in Sweden he had language difficulties (dyslexia) and also health problems (asthma) .

The mother claimed that the son did not want to see his father, and accused the father of not wanting to listen to the son´s own will. She argued, according to the lower court´s verdict (October 11, 2013), that it was “mental abuse to force a 13-year- old to a school where you have been bullied and to live with someone you had not wanted to live with for years above being afraid of expressing your will”.

Legal decisions : The lower court (Skaraborgs tingsrätt,  Case no. T229-13) decided to give sole custody to the father and to force  the mother to pay 20 000 SEK, if she did not leave their son to his father  in his home the day after the verdict.

The mother appealed against this judgment , and the higher court decided to permit a new trial of the case, and until that had been done, to inhibit the lower court´s  verdict.

Thus the son kept on living with his mother  in Norway, who said in the higher court that she trusts the son to contact his father if he wants that, and that you cannot force a child to visit his father  if the child doesn´t want that.

The higher court´s verdict: Confirmation of the lower court´s verdict, that is sole custody of the son to the father, and under a penalty of 20 000 SEK to return the son to his father  – this time  – at the latest the 17th of March 2014. The mother´s rights to visitation with the son were  decided to start two months after the verdict, when the son had settled with his father and had come to some peace there.

Excerpt from this higher court´s judgment:

The investigation made demonstrates that the mother since Christmas 2012 has contributed to isolate the son from his father, although she as the residential parent has had a responsibility to act to fulfill as much as possible the son´s need of contact  with his father. This is obvious as the son in principal has had no contact at all with his father since  Christmas 2012, that the mother has entrusted to the son to decide when and on which terms visitation should take place and that the mother has given no information about the son to his father. Also the parents three oldest children have been involved in the conflict concerning the youngest son and seem in different ways to have chosen their mother´s side. The circumstances thus tell that the youngest son with his mother is in a negative surrounding in relation to his father, which is not in his best interest.


I apologize for not being fluent in English and hope you understand my translations and my text.  I think that you might recognize similarities with cases in your country? Anyway these verdicts make me feel hope for the future  as they demonstrate that the child´s legal and human right to family life and to keep his/her identity in these cases have been respected and not violated.

Best and warm regards from

Lena in Sweden

[1] The slander on different websites and among some  bloggers, also lay judges, in Sweden politically appointed by their local fellow party members,  is that  PAS is a non scientific theory to help pedophile fathers.  Unfortunately,  until now, this has been the most common picture given of parental alienation in Sweden. I think this is due  to the serious desinformation given by academic scholars, such as Christian Diesen  and Eva Diesen, formulated  in the second edition of their  book Abuse against women and children, Norstedts Juridik 2012, page 170:

The suspicion that mothers, usually in connection with custody disputes, accuse the ex-partner of sexual abuse of the children (for example, related to the application for visitation rights) has forwarded a quasi-scientific theory called PAS, parental alienation syndrome.  The theory, launched by the American child psychiatrist Richard Gardner (advocate for pedophilia), teaches that these mothers suffer from a mental defect that makes them alienate the children from the father at any price.  Up until now this theory has hardly been used for defense in Swedish criminal cases, but in quite a number of custody cases.  It must be regarded as an important cleaning task for the courts to not allow expert statements based on PAS, as the theory lacks scientific confirmation.”

[2] A Danish judge, Svein Andersen, who  in his book “The parents´ duties. The children´s rights”/ Foreldres pligter. Börns rettigheder” from  2004, compared family law in   England, Scotland, Australia and Canada for possible inspiration to reforms in the Nordic countries, used this term when he described what we call parental alienation. Nord 2004:2, Nordisk Ministerråd, Köpenhamn 2004. The Danish judge stated that there are two instances when it can be justified to separate a child from a parent:

  • When the child suffers physical violence and/or abuse from a parent.
  • When a parent demonstrates implacable hostility against the other parent, which implies that the child is mentally l abused by  this parent..

[3] On February 7,  2014  a big Swedish study on stress identified among 5 year old children  from about 10 000 Swedish  families was presented in the Swedish media, see Carlsson,  Emma,  Frostell  Anneli,  Ludvigsson Johnny , Fagersjö Maria:  Psychological stress in children may alter the immune response,  Journal of Immunology February 2014. See also: Segerstrom Suzanne, C., Miller, Gregory. E.: Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta analytic study of 30 years of inquiry, Psychological Bulletin 2004 130 (4):601-630

[4] The lawyer  Eva Kornhall wrote a formal letter in November 2010  to the Social Department  in the Swedish parliament and asked them to prohibit PAS. She has taken  several other actions to calumniate the concept of parental alienation in co-operation with other women who present PAS as a theory to help pedophile fathers.

A colleague to this family law  lawyer, Lena Feuk,  earlier stated when interviewed in a magazine , “Dare to see” /”Våga se”  2006:2, published by a Swedish  support center against incest, that PAS is a defense for pedophiles.