The error occurred in the run-up to Christmas at a remand centre in Uppsala. The fax ordering the release was on an official form and purported to come from the city’s district court.
The man was being held awaiting trial on charges of serious assault.
Prison service spokeswoman AnneMarie Dahlgren told The Local that staff at the remand centre tried to call the court to get the man’s release order confirmed, but with many court workers off work ahead of Christmas, nobody could take their calls. The prison decided to release the man anyway.
“It was the best they could do in the circumstances. To keep him locked up would have been worse.”
The prisoner was caught a few days following his escape, and he was put back into custody. Dahlgren ruled out punishing the escapee.
“It’s not a crime to escape, so the prisoner has done nothing wrong.”
Officials suspect that the fax was sent by a friend or associate of the prisoner, who stole the document from the court and sent it to the prison.
Police are now trying to find out who sent the release order.
“We are trying to discover where this paper came from,” said Uppsala police spokesman Christer Nordström, adding that anyone found to have helped the man could be charged with aiding an escape.
The Prison Service meanwhile says that it has reviewed procedures following the incident, and has introduced new routines for handling paperwork.