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Fines for corrections officers who let man die

TT/Stuart Roberts · 11 Dec 2009, 12:36

Published: 11 Dec 2009 12:36 GMT+01:00

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On a night in February last year, the man, who was an inmate of the remand centre in Mariestad, placed a strip of bedsheet around his neck and hanged himself from a ceiling pipe above the toilet.

When the officers discovered the man, they did not attempt to take him down or try to save his life. Instead, they waited for the ambulance to arrive, and the man was finally taken down 14 minutes later.

The 23-year-old man died of his injuries in hospital two days later. The path to prosecution of the three corrections officers was not straightforward. The first preliminary investigation that was carried out was concluded in September 2008. Chief prosecutor Lena Medelius came to the decision that no crime had been committed that could be tried under public indictment.

Legal advice subsequently obtained by the Swedish Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) stated that the man’s life might have been saved if he had been taken down and had received assistance at the time.

Deputy chief prosecutor Ewa Nyhult reviewed the matter, and in her written decision, she stated: “On the basis of information in the media concerning this matter I have found grounds to take the decision to prosecute.”

Sveriges Radio's investigative news programme Kaliber reported that a new preliminary investigation was commenced in December last year. Then, last summer, police internal crimes unit prosecutor Bo Lindgren indicted the three officers for dereliction of duty. “The corrections officers should immediately have taken down the inmate and tried to save his life,” the prosecutor stated in the summons.

During plea bargaining in November this year, the prosecutor demanded a fine for the three officers, and settled at a fine of 80 days' wages for each of the accused.

Story continues below…

The accused, aged 60, 52 and 39 years respectively, have maintained their innocence of any crime. Initially they took leave for a short period, but have since retained their jobs and continued to work.

The matter remains open before the personnel committee at the Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården). Following the man’s suicide, and after other similar incidents in Swedish remand centres, the Prison and Probation Service has moved to urgently train their officers in first aid and has tightened up a number of procedures.

TT/Stuart Roberts (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:55 December 11, 2009 by MichaelZWilliamson
"Wait, is taking someone down during a self-hanging in our job description?"

"Why, I don't know. Let me call the union."
15:34 December 11, 2009 by laura ka baal
i can guarantee the person who took his life was not from sweden though he was a citizen so this was bound to happen with him.
16:10 December 11, 2009 by livinginsweden
Well done to the father in the story'Father ....scolding son's bully' who confronted the bully. The bully was a big coward to call and cry to the polis. More father should do that and change the law .. because those bullies probably ended up as criminals and be held in remand center. Did they charge the bullies?

@Laura ... assumptions can be dangerous .... we should also consider the victim(s) of this criminal and the victim's viewpoint ... the remand 'suspect' obviously did not give two hoots for his victim in the first place.... so he might be feeling bad for himself when caught .... and took his own life.
16:14 December 11, 2009 by wenddiver
He hung himself! Gee maybe they trspected his right to choose.
19:19 December 11, 2009 by Bensonradar
This is political correctness gone mad. Simple human decency should have made these corrections officers act immediately to save the inmate who was obviously either mentally effected or so depressed that death was the only option. If he was not from Sweden it does not matter, he was in their custody and they were responsible for him. Very sad.
20:18 December 11, 2009 by Nemesis
Anyone who does not act immediately in such a situation, has something seriously wrong with them.
21:10 December 11, 2009 by Spud Lite
Eighty days wages times three.

This apparently is the value of human life.
03:17 December 12, 2009 by Davey-jo
Looking at the ages of the accused I wonder who led who into the "inaction".The three are clearly guilty of a not carrying out their "duty of care" as we say in the UK. The meagre sentencing is something the Swedish Justice system should look at. Can the prosecution not appeal the sentence as too lenient?
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