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Fines for corrections officers who let man die

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12:36 CET+01:00
Three corrections officers have been convicted of dereliction of duty, after they failed to save an inmate who had hanged himself at a remand centre in Mariestad in 2008. They each received fines equivalent to 80 days' wages.

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.

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.

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