Prosecutor seeks suspended sentences in Rakvere youth home abuse case

Suspended prison sentences are being sought in the case of three former employees charged with the physical abuse of vulnerable minors, which allegedly occurred at the Lille Kodu secure youth institution in Rakvere, Lääne-Viru County, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Monday.

The indictment states that seven teenagers who were placed under 24-hour guard at the facility and whose freedom of movement was restricted, on the basis of a court order, were maltreated while incarcerated on the premises.

The Rakvere Lille Kodu is operated by Hoolekandeteenset AS.

Sirje Merilo, senior prosecutor at the Viru District Prosecutor's Office, told AK that: "The three defendants are accused of the abuse of minors."

"This does not concern just the abuse of 'ordinary' minors, but of abusing vulnerable minors. More specifically, the three employees of the nursing home abused [the minors in question," Merilo went on.

"There were many, very varied incidents of violence," she added.

"These children were hit, pinched, pushed, minor physical injuries were incurred, while all three [defendants] were involved in different numbers of incidents. All this happened during a three- or four-month period, at the beginning of the year before last."

The incident investigation was rendered more difficult due to the large amount of video footage which needed to be reviewed, Merilo added.

Additionally, the victims are young people who profound intellectual disabilities.

"This made it more difficult to prove," Merilo said.

"Whereas an ordinary victim is the main source of evidence for us, one who comes and tells what happened to them ... these children were all in effect without a voice, unable to stand up for themselves, let alone inform the investigators later."

"Evidence therefore had to be obtained by other means, which is what made it difficult, in that cases had to be picked up from the video recordings."

At the same time, both investigators and the prosecutor had delineate the points at which the minors' treatment constituted a crime, and those where it did not, and also the points at which the victims felt physical pain of some kind and those points where they did not - all while the victims were unable to clearly speak up for themselves, the prosecutor added.

The three former Lille Kodu employees and their defense lawyers declined comment.

Sirje Merilo, however, spoke of their defense in relation to the allegations.

"They essentially justified it on the basis of there being very challenging contingencies, which is indeed the case. It is extremely difficult to deal with children, of this kind, hence why [care facilities] do not just take people from the street [as employees], but they are specially trained."

"This is [however] in no way any kind of justification, as it is ultimately the manner in which they dealt with these children, but it was their primary justification: That the situation is very difficult and they could not have dealt with it in any other way," the prosecutor went on.

Defense has also requested a plea deal, which the prosecutor has agreed to, AK reported.

The prosecutor requested one year and six months of imprisonment, with a three-year probationary period for one defendant, Anu Aleksejev, one year and three months of imprisonment with a two-year probationary period for another, Kätlin Männik, and six months of imprisonment, with a one-year and six-month probationary period for the third, Liina Ots-Lassi.

The court verdict will be read on February 1.

In addition to the three defendants listed above, two more Lille Kodu employees were fired in connection with this case, while their guilt has not been adjudged so great as to warrant criminal charges.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

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