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Mentally ill offenders 'will not be punished'

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11:01 CEST+02:00
Courts in Sweden will in future not have the option to sentence criminals to serve time in secure psychiatric units, ministers have said.

The government is to order a review of psychiatric detention for criminals, Justice Minister Beatrice Ask and Social Affairs Minister Göran Hägglund announced in a joint article in Dagens Nyheter on Wednesday. The review will propose reforms by 1st June 2010. Under the terms of the review, people whose psychiatric state means they are not responsible for their actions will not face punishment, while others who commit serious crimes will go to jail.

The ministers said the current system was in great need of reform. “The previous government was unwilling to take responsibility for the question,” they wrote. They criticised the former Social Democratic administration for not implementing the recommendations of a 2002 review of the issue.

“The problem therefore remains. This is a problem that hits people who are already vulnerable.”

Under the 2002 proposal, people who commit a crime would escape criminal responsibility “if they, as a result of a serious psychiatric disturbance, temporary mental confusion, serious learning difficulty or serious demented state lacked the ability to appreciate the consequences of an action or to adjust their behaviour,” Hägglund and Ask wrote.

“This means that the option of sentencing to secure mental health care will be abolished,” the ministers said, but added that they wanted further examination of some of the issues raised in the 2002 proposal. The review will specifically be asked to propose measures for treating people with psychiatric problems who have committed crimes and measures for ensuring that society is protected from such people.

“The government is nonetheless focused on carrying out a reform based on the premises in the Psychiatric Responsibility Committee's proposals,” the pair added.

“We believe that such a reform will draw a clearer distinction between healthcare and punishment,” they said.

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