New child abuse commission after Bobby death

Sweden's government is to set up a special commission to investigate cases where children die in violent circumstances. Morgan Johansson, the public health minister, expressly linked the new commission to the death of Bobby, a ten-year old boy from Småland allegedly killed by his parents.

“We could call this Bobby’s law,” Morgansson said.

“This would honour him.”

Bobby, who was disabled, died after choking on his own vomit. His mother and father will appear on Tuesday at Eksjö district court charged with murder, with alternative charges of serious assault or manslaughter.

While the proposed new law might take its name from Bobby, it is actually inspired by laws in a number of American states, and the way in which they investigate how authorities and others act when children die of abuse or neglect.

The proposal now put forward by Johansson, which he hopes to pass by the summer, was first floated in 2003, when the government said it wanted to devise a model for investigating deadly violence against children.

“Every year, eight to ten, sometimes as many as twelve children die in Sweden due to violence. This has been true for several years,” Johansson said.

“These days we are fairly good at identifying the culprit and convicting him. What we must improve on is investigating what we could have done earlier,” he added.

Johansson said that there should be a system for looking for signs that should have caused the authorities and others to react earlier, before the violence against the child has gone too far.

“This is not about looking for scapegoats, it’s more a question of systematically learning more and ensuring that such awful things don’t happen in the future.”

The new commission of enquiry will be under the auspices of the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen), Expressen reports.

“This is a step in the right direction,” children’s ombudsman Lena Nyberg said, but added that it was not enough on its own.

“It is important that we increase our focus on questions relating to children and violence,” she said.

Nyberg argues that new statistics about the extent to which violence against children has become more common.

“We have received signals from various quarters that this is the case,” Nyberg said.

“In Sweden, many people believe that children have not been subjected to violence since the ban on corporal punishment was introduced, but this is not true,” she said.

The commission’s work will function as a kind of evaluation of why the system has not worked, and which changes can be made, Nyberg thinks.

Morgan Johansson argues that the new commission can be compared to those that investigate air, rail and shipping accidents.

“There has not been the same kind of thinking in the social arena,” he said.

Johansson said all he knows about the Bobby case is what has been published in newspapers.

“It brings tears to the eyes,” he said.

“Anything we can do to prevent such a thing happening again is good.”