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'Suspects can claim they were drunk and go free'

Published: 01 Nov 2011 08:48 GMT+01:00
Updated: 01 Nov 2011 13:53 GMT+01:00

The recent acquittal by Sweden's Supreme Court of a man charged with attempted murder because he claimed he was “too intoxicated” to remember the incident, has been slammed by legal experts.

The man, who stabbed two people, claimed he was too intoxicated to recall exactly what he had done. As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that he couldn't have had the intent required to be convicted of attempted murder.

In the precedent setting ruling issued on September 16th, the court instead believed the man should be convicted of aggravated assault, rather than attempted murder, after using a 24 centimetre-long kitchen knife to stab two people in the face, neck, and chest.

“A group of judges on the Supreme Court (Högsta Domstolen - HD) have elevated intoxication to an excuse,” write criminal law professors Madeleine Leijonhufvud and Suzanne Wennberg in an opinion article published on Tuesday in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

They argue that that Swedish law is based on the assumption that if someone voluntarily continues to remain intoxicated they nevertheless remain responsible for their actions.

Sweden's courts, including the Supreme Court, have previously excluded intoxication when interpreting laws and ruling on whether the accused acted with intent.

That an accused now, because of his intoxication, is unable to see the scope of his actions means that he can go free from a premeditated crime.

“The consequence of the Supreme Court ruling is that in certain cases, deeds will be downgraded to a lesser crime,” the two professors write.

The ruling could also result in actions carried out during a drunken state are no longer considered criminal, argue Leijonhufvud and Wennberg.

However, Magnus Ulväng an expert in criminal law at Uppsala University, accused Leijonhufvud and Wennberg of twisting the issue, explaining that suspected criminals won't simply be able to avoid punishment by claiming they were under the influence.

“And I don't think one should exaggerate the problem. It's always hard to show criminally punishable responsibility and this includes exceptional cases. It's an extreme situation when one concludes that a person is so intoxicated that they don't understand what's going on,” he told the TT news agency.

“In the majority of cases where people are drunk they have intent. They get angry and do things. Being intoxicated isn't the same thing as having these exceptional circumstances apply.”

He said the Supreme Court's ruling was a “sought-after clarification” that the same rules apply to both sober and intoxicated people, namely that intent is required to commit a crime.

“What this is about is that when a person is intoxicated, the question of intent has been overlooked. There's no other situation where we accept convicting people without intent. There's good reason for having a high burden of proof,” said Ulväng.

TT/The Local/dl (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

09:11 November 1, 2011 by engagebrain
it also seems to require some objective definition of drunkenness - when in doubt claim to be drunk.
10:46 November 1, 2011 by bourgeoisieboheme
Isn't this a moral hazard in a way? It will cause criminals to intoxicate themselves prior to the act thus removing legal liability. Now if you want to rob a bank, rape someone, even murder, it will pay to get hammered in the bar first before you do the act. This ruling is setting a VERY bad precedent.
10:52 November 1, 2011 by Grokh
that excused has been used for centuries and it never helped anyone why should it help now ?
12:33 November 1, 2011 by Mb 65
try telling that to the tax office when you have a problem with them.
12:52 November 1, 2011 by Mib
Probably this judgement was made when the Supreme Court judges were drunk themselves. They may have even raped thier partners while in a drunken state and so have empathy for someone in a astate of dunkeness.

Well,,,,,it seems that any excuse is alid now for taking now resposnibility for your actions ie. the drunk father who sexually assaulted his young son thinkning it was his Wife after drinkingtoo much. Julian Assange should use this in his defence and hy he will be free without question....I mean he's guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of the politically motivated tossers.

It's just like the rulings by the EU supreme court that allowed an immigrant who I believe did a hit & run, but could not be deported as it would deprive him of his rights to look after his cat. I would say take the bloody cat to his home country...but then you're probably violating the cat's rights.

The court should always focus on the VICTIM...VICTIM.....and not on finding any excuse to stab the VICTIM in the back. Who says crime doesn't pay? I bet if someone stabbed a Supremem Court judge while drunk, the ruling would HAVE been different.
13:46 November 1, 2011 by philster61
"I bet if someone stabbed a Supremem Court judge while drunk, the ruling would HAVE been different. "

Unlikely. He would've claimed that the Judge was drunk and stumbled onto his knife....
15:38 November 1, 2011 by conboy
A few years ago someone did but he was not drunk merely schizophrenic and is therefore banged up on lifetime review at a centre for the criminally insane at Karsudden.
19:13 November 1, 2011 by Jimmy
Great now I can go to the pub, get drunk drive home, and if caught.... plead I am drunk
19:20 November 1, 2011 by yourkidding
Good to know. Remind me to rob Swedbanken the next time my mates and I go out for a few pints.
22:48 November 1, 2011 by Philscbx
2:52 November 1, 2011 by Mib

Probably this judgement was made when the Supreme Court judges were drunk themselves. They may have even raped thier partners while in a drunken state and so have empathy for someone in a astate of dunkeness.

Who says crime doesn't pay? I bet if someone stabbed a Supremem Court judge while drunk, the ruling would HAVE been different.

This is exactly Correct.

That's why we have very LAX Drink Driving laws in the US.

They get off over & over, still able to drive, then kill entire family head on.

When they find their loved one stabbed to death, then the law will be slam dunk.

They were sober & articulate enough to select a weapon and commit the crime. What ever condition occurred after has no bearing.

Snipers will be the new final law self made of volunteer secrete society.

I reviewed several hours of Russian Court System,, from petty theft to major crimes.

I now have the utmost respect for those Judges.

All Judges by law, forced to sit in those courts for a week/month to understand real justice before ever laying out their gay agenda.
03:52 November 12, 2011 by MartinSifas
There's the saying "In vino veritas", In wine is the truth. Drunken people should still be responsible of their actions. Otherwise drinking becomes the solution against consequences.
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