28 November 2022

CMS researcher contributes to court case against suspected pirate


A year after being accused of piracy, Lucky Francis was found guilty. In the trial, the prosecutor has used senior researcher Katja Lindskov Jacobsen as a witness because of her expert knowledge of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, and because her report was used as part of the case material.

Esbern Snare - Danish warship
From November 2021 to February 2022, the Danish Military had stationed the frigate Esbern Snare in the Gulf of Guinea. Among other things, the ship's contribution included a helicopter, special operations forces and military police. A total of 175 people from the Danish Military contributed to the mission.

After an exchange of fire with suspected pirates in the Gulf of Guinea, the crew of the Danish frigate Esbern Snare brought four piracy suspects, one severely wounded, to the Danish frigate as their pirate skiff sank. After several weeks on board Esbern Snare, three of the piracy suspects were released, while the wounded piracy suspect, a Nigerian man aged 39, was brought to Denmark.

The dramatic episode unfolded in the Gulf of Guinea on November 24 last year. On 28 November 2022, the Nigerian man, Lucky Francis, was found guilty of having shown serious mischief or otherwise recklessly exposed the frigate's crew to serious health risk or danger to life.

During the trial, the prosecutor used the report "Pirates of the Niger Delta", of which Katja Lindskov Jacobsen, senior researcher at Center for Military Studies (the Department of Political Science), is the lead author.

"I was therefore summoned as an expert witness during the trial itself. On the second day, I gave evidence as an expert," she explains.

The typical pirate

Several points in Katja Lindskov Jacobsen's report were of interest to the court.

"One of the things that was of particular interest was the description in our report of what a pirate group in the Gulf of Guinea region typically looks like. Based on analysis of material from several previous pirate attacks, we describe a number of characteristics of a typical pirate group in this region," she says and continues:

"In addition, there was interest in the report's description and my additional knowledge of how other countries' security forces have previously been in situations where a pirate group has fired back at them."

Katja Lindskov Jacobsen is happy that her research can also be used in such a concrete and serious matter as a trial against a suspected pirate.

"At the same time, it is a very unusual situation for me. I have spent a lot of time preparing and reflecting on the role of an expert witness. It's obviously a very special role that you have to take very seriously," she says.

New questions arise

The verdict on Lucky Francis ends an important chapter in Denmark's contribution to the pirate hunt in the Gulf of Guinea. However, Katja Lindskov Jacobsen doubts that we have heard the last of the story.

"Unfortunately, I don't think all aspect of this matter are over yet. At least two questions will arise: what will happen to Lucky Francis now? And how does this case influence the relationship between Denmark and Nigeria,” she asks.

Although Lucky Francis was found guilty, the penalty is waived. This is due to the fact that the three other piracy suspects that were also brought onboard Esbern Snare were released with charges dropped. The court's reasoning also refers to the fact that the man lost his leg and that no Danish soldiers were injured. The prosecutor chose to appeal the verdict – with reference to the Danish Aliens Act and the possibility of later deportation.

You can read Katja Lindskov Jacobsen's entire report "Pirates of the Niger Delta" here

Katja Lindskov Jacobsen is currently also the Principal Investigator on the DANIDA-supported project (Counter)Piracy Infrastructures in the Gulf of Guinea.


Katja Lindskov Jacobsen
Senior researcher, Centre for Military Studies
Department of Political Science
Mail: kj@ifs.ku.dk 
Phone: +45 35 33 38 69

Simon Knokgaard Halskov
Press and communication consultant
Mail: sih@samf.ku.dk  
Phone: +45 93 56 53 29


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