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Judge fined for exposing illicit sex tape victims' identities

The defendant blamed human error for the release of victims’ names in the verdict.

Axl Smith
Axl Smith Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

The Helsinki appeal court has fined a Helsinki district court judge for negligent breach of professional secrecy for his role in revealing the identities of victims in the case of a former television presenter who secretly filmed sexual encounters with 29 women without their consent.

As a result of the judge’s error, the media received the sealed verdict, which contained the names of the victims who had been secretly recorded by ex-VJ Axl Smith.

The appeal court found that technical problems present in the system used by the district court to draw up the verdict made it possible for the judge to believe that the confidentiality markings were intact. It also determined that the judge tried to correct the error as soon as he became aware of it.

The court ruled that a reasonable penalty for breach of professional secrecy would be a 25-day fine, totalling 1,450 euros in the judge’s case.

Judge decided to conceal names

In early 2017, the district court had previously sentenced former MTV entertainment presenter Axl Smith for recording his sexual encounters without his partners’ knowledge or consent and for sharing the recordings with several people. At the request of several media outlets, the judge released the verdict in February 2017.

In the appeal court hearing, the judge denied committing any offences and said that attributed the disclosure of some parts of a lengthy verdict to human error. However the bench admitted to responsibility for the confidentiality markings.

At the end of Smith’s trial, the judge had ordered that the victims’ names and identifying information should remain sealed.

The deputy chancellor of justice decided to bring charges against the trial judge on behalf of seven of Smith’s victims in the sex tape case.

As the judge’s employer, the state was ordered to pay four victims 1,000 euros each as compensation for the suffering caused by having their identities exposed.

Meanwhile the previous sentence handed down to Smith in the lower court remained unchanged in the appellate court. In November 2017, the Helsinki appeal court upheld Smith’s conviction and sentenced him to a suspended jail term of 14 months.

He was found guilty on 30 counts of voyeurism, four counts of defamation and two counts of dissemination of information that violated the victim’s privacy.

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