Præstø headteacher loses appeal

District court decision was upheld after the judges pointed to the lack of clear guidelines for when the teachers were permitted to take the students out sailing

Truels Truelsen, the headteacher of Lundby Efterskole, has been handed a 60-day suspended sentence for his role in the 2011 Præstø Fjord boating tragedy that left one teacher dead and seven students with permanent injuries, after the High Court in Nykøbing Falster this morning upheld a previous district court ruling.


Aside from the suspended sentence, Truelsen was also stripped of the right to teach sailing to children for three years, a decision that was unanimously agreed upon by all five judges.


“It’s our clear belief that Truels Truelsen let down the parents and students at the school, so we agree with the district court that Truelsen is responsible,” the presiding judge told DR Nyheder. “It is a difficult case to be a judge in, and we have the deepest sympathies and respect for the victims, relatives and everyone else involved.”


No guidelines

In particular, the judges focused on the fact that there were no clear guidelines for when teachers were permitted to take the students out sailing.


“If one had taken responsibility as a leader seriously, then everyone would have known how to prepare for such a situation,” the judge explained. “If the leadership doesn’t understand the guidelines themselves, how are employees able to fulfil their duties in the relevant and correct way?”


Truelsen was not in attendance during the reading of the verdict, but the courthouse was nearly full and several students who were involved in the February 2011 disaster were present.


Can move on now

For them it was important for them that Truelsen was found guilty.


“For me personally, it meant a lot because I am in no doubt that it was his responsibility,” Henrik Torstensen, a father to one of the involved students, Katrine, told DR Nyheder. “The verdict means that we can finally put this behind us.”


The district court ruled in February that the school and its headteacher, Truelsen, were innocent of manslaughter, but found them both guilty of causing grievous bodily harm, irresponsible sailing, and a failure to comply with sea safety rules.


Prosecution wanted more

Truelsen was handed a suspended sentence and the school was made to pay a 250,000 kroner fine, which it agreed to. Truelsen, though, appealed against his verdict two weeks later.


The prosecution had asked for Truelsen’s 60-day suspended sentence be changed to a prison sentence that was “measured in months” rather than days.


Truelsen’s lawyer, Peter Giersing, argued that his client should be acquitted because he was not present on the day of the accident.