Informers to earn reduced sentences

Crime suspects who help in criminal investigations should have their punishments reduced, according to a proposal which will be presented to parliament at the beginning of next year.

The measure is expected to be particularly useful in investigations into economic crimes and will lead to quicker legal proceedings, said Minister of Justice Thomas Bodström.

“A criminal who is convicted on five counts faces the same consequences as if he or she is convicted on one or two if the investigation goes quickly,” he told Dagens Nyheter.

The idea is that cooperation will benefit both the suspect and society, but Bodström does not want to go as far as in the US, where a criminal who snitches on his accomplices can sometimes be freed altogether.

State prosecutor Fredrik Wersäll is not as concerned about the American system.

“I think ‘discounted sentences’ are good, and I’m not so pessimistic about prosecution agreements which could lead to a quicker guilty verdict. I hope we can discuss this further,” he said at a seminar in Stockholm, reported Svenska Dagbladet.

In Thomas Bodström’s view there is “no party political problem” around the issue of giving informers milder punishments, and he claimed that it is not a question of complicated legislative changes.

The justice minister said that the change would mean considerably reduced legal costs. But he does not want to see a system where prosecutors negotiate with crime suspects, since that, said Bodström, can lead to false admissions.

“We don’t want a plea bargain system. But today, suspects could deny a crime even though the evidence against them is 100% certain, since they don’t gain anything from confessing,” he said.

Bodström rejected the notion that the measure would simply mean that criminals avoid punishment.

“What is important is that society is able to fight crime. I believe it is entirely fair with people who show a willingness to cooperate.”

The proposal appears to be backed across the political spectrum.

“He has my full support,” said Liberal MP Johan Pehrson, who is the chairman of the parliamentary justice committee looking into the proposal.

“We have been arguing for this for many years. People who lie and keep quiet won’t like it and people who tell the truth will be pleased.”

Pehrson, who is also the conservative alliance’s spokesman on legal matters, believes that the option of a reduced sentence should apply to all types of serious crime and not just economic crimes. He hinted that the matter would be dealt with quickly by parliament.

“I believe there is a positive attitude towards this among the conservatives,” he said.

Thomas Bodström said he anticipated that the changes would come into force in “the latter part of next year”.

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