Currently, the limitations period for murder in Sweden is 25 years. But if parliament agrees, it will mean that any unsolved murders from the last 25 years will remain open for prosecution indefinitely.
“Discussions are ongoing in the Ministry of Justice about what the period of limitations should be for different crimes,” said Justice Minister Thomas Bodström to TT.
“Gradually, this will result in a legislative council report.”
A decision on whether to abolish the statute of limitations overall has not yet been taken, said Bodström.
“What’s clear is that we are going to propose getting rid of the statute of limitations for murder,” he said.
The minister pointed to new techniques – primarily DNA testing – which can now solve murders that otherwise would not have been cleared up.
“DNA does not fade as the memory does,” said Bodström.
He rejected the values which once formed the basis of the law on the statute of limitations.
“I don’t think they are relevant any longer. Then they were more focused on the attacker, and took the view that if such a long period of time had passed then you should be able to live a normal life without fear of facing trial,” he said.
“That’s not right. However long has passed, people should be made to take responsibility for as serious a crime as murder,” said Bodström.
The government has previously made clear its view that there should be no statute of limitations for genocide and crimes against humanity. In relation to that, the government will examine whether there should be a period of limitations for terrorist crimes.
Anne Ramberg, the general secretary of the Swedish Bar Association, said that it is about time the rules were reconsidered.
“We should not have any sacred cows,” she said, but emphasised that DNA testing alone can never prove the guilt of an attacker.
Support evidence is required and that will be weak after 40 years – especially where witnesses are no longer alive.
Ramberg also noted that Bodström’s proposal raises questions about a prosecutor’s absolute duty to file charges when there is just cause to suspect somebody of having committed murder.
“That will be highly problematical as the evidence thins out over time,” she said.