A court has acquitted former University of Tartu Library director Martin Hallik of a sexual offense, overruling an earlier county court judgment which had found him guilty.
The second-tier Tartu Circuit Court found the earlier judgment, made by the first-tier Tartu County Court on March 18, did not adequately indicate reasons why the accused, i.e. Hallik, would have to understand that the alleged victim found his behavior to be coercive.
"Exploitation of an addictive relationship means that the perpetrator intentionally abuses the victim's dependence on him or her, and which objectively allows or facilitates sexual intercourse or other sexual acts. The accused's intent, at least indirectly, must include knowledge of the intellectual element that … they did not not base their behavioral decisions on the free will of the victim," the court found.
The closed proceedings at Tartu County Court began on November 4 last year, following an investigation which began in October 2018.
Hallik was charged in two episodes under the section of the Penal Code concerning coercion to sexual intercourse or other sexual acts, where the victim's dependence on the accused is utilized.
Hallik pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The circuit court found the county court decision on the question of how Hallik knowingly used his managerial position was unfounded, and how it came to the conclusion that it was known the alleged victim, as Hallik's subordinate, would have found it difficult to rebuff any approaches he made – a position which the court said would be arbitrary.
The victim had not referred to anything from which it could be inferred that Hallik had actually influenced, threatened or otherwise manipulated him in order to commit the acts alleged in the accusation.
"In the court's view, there is no evidence in the present case to suggest that the use of power would have been a means for Hallik to suppress the victim's real will and thereby achieve the desired sexual activity," the circuit court said.
In connection with the acquittal, the victim's civil action will not be reviewed and the prosecutor's appeal will be dismissed, it is reported.
The county court judgment in March found Hallik guilty of coercing a female employee of the library into sexual intercourse and sentenced him to 18 months in prison. Hallik was also ordered to pay non-pecuniary damage to the amount of €5,000 in favor of the victim, in the same ruling.
Hallik's legal counsel, sworn advocate Oliver Nääs, filed an appeal with Tartu Circuit Court, seeking his client's acquittal as well as that the alleged victim's civil action not be heard, and Hallik should be reimbursed the costs.
A separate legal dispute revolved around Hallik's forced resignation, and compensation, after the allegations became public in August 2018; Tartu County Court ruled last September that the University of Tartu had forced Hallik's resignation unjustifiably and without sufficient warning, and ordered the university to pay a total of €90,568 in compensation The university appealed against this decision, and on February 20, the Tartu Circuit Court upheld university's appeal, denying Hallik the compensation.
The county court ruling had also been appealed by the prosecutor's office, which was seeking two years' real jail time for Hallik, to be back-dated from when he was first detained over the matter.
Costs and fees
Legal fees came to €4,698 in the appeal proceedings plus €30,384 for the county court hearing, which the ruling ordered be paid to Hallik from the state budget.
The court ordered the victim to pay the representation fee of €2,214 plus a representation fee incurred in the county court proceedings of €22,362.
The circuit court judgment can be appealed within 30 days of the ruling.
Martin Hallik became director of the University of Tartu library in 2005, though this was suspended while he was working as Vice-Rector for Studies, 2010-2015.
The Estonian court system is organized in three tiers, with four county courts and two administrative courts occupying the first level, the two circuit courts in Tallinn and Tartu the second, followed by the Supreme Court, based in Tartu.
Who is Martin Hallik?
Martin Hallik became the director of the University of Tartu Library in 2005. Between 2010–2015, his employment contract was suspended because he worked as the Vice-Rector for Studies at the University of Tartu. He started working as the library manager again in June 2016. In August 2018, the University of Tartu terminated Hallik's employment contract unilaterally due to a loss of trust.
Editor: Andrew Whyte