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‘Sleepwalking’ Swede beats drunken driving charges

A 51-year-old Swedish man has been acquitted of drunken driving charges after a court couldn't rule out the possibility that the man was asleep when he got behind the wheel.

There is no doubt that the man was well above the legal limit when he awoke late one evening last May in the driver’s seat of his car, which had careened into a ditch in Karlskrona in southern Sweden.

According to court documents, the man had a blood alcohol level of 1.85 per mille – nearly ten times Sweden’s legal limit of 0.2 per mille.

“He fell asleep around 9pm. After that, he doesn’t remember anything except that his next memory is that he woke up in the ditch outside his car together with a male named Magnus,” reads the Blekinge District Court’s ruling.

“He had on his nightshirt, sweatpants and slippers.”

He explained to officers that he was on his to replenish his supply of snus, a wet snuff tobacco product popular in Sweden.

He also claimed he didn’t feel under the influence when he got in his car and that he recalled veering off into the ditch and slamming into a post.

But during subsequent interrogations, the man claimed to have no memory of initial post-accident interview, only that “he spoke with a police officer and that he was in shock and extremely intoxicated when the interview took place.”

In tossing out the drunken driving charges against the man, the court cited an opinion written by the man’s doctor following the accident explaining that he may have suffered from somnambulism or sleepwalking.

“Somnambulism is a well known medical phenomenon where a person can carry out complex behaviours like walking, eating and making food, driving a car and having sex without actually being awake or aware of what’s happening,” wrote the doctor, according to court documents.

The doctor explained that the man had previously displayed behaviour that could be interpreted as sleepwalking after having taken the same pills he took the evening of the accident.

According to the court, the man “may have been affected by somnambulism and was unaware of his actions.”

As a result, wrote the court in its ruling, “It cannot be shown beyond a reasonable doubt” that the man “was aware of his actions when he drove his car” to the extent required to find him guilty of drunken driving.

The man’s attorney, Christer Holmqvist, wasn’t surprised by the verdict.

“I actually expected an acquittal,” he told The Local.

“But I can understand that the public might think otherwise, but when it comes to standards of evidence for a criminal conviction, all one needs is a reasonable alternative explanation [for an acquittal].”

Holmqvist said he expects the verdict will be appealed, citing recent media reports that the prosecutor in the case was unhappy with the verdict.

“I won’t be surprised if it’s appealed. I understand there is a certain amount of public pressure on a prosecutor to gain a conviction,” he said.

The Local’s attempts to reach prosecutor Malin Svensson for comment were unsuccessful.

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DISCOVER SWEDEN

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.

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