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‘Parents should pay for their children’s crimes’

The Swedish government has announced that from September 1st parents will be made financially responsible for crimes committed by their children.

'Parents should pay for their children's crimes'

“For most people this is not a big issue at all. For most people it is patently clear that parents should take responsibility for their children,” Justice Minister Beatrice Ask said in a government statement.

Ask underlined that the proposal is part of raft of measures to tackle youth crime.

“Children and young people are very prone to criminal behaviour. If you consider the statistics from 2008, with regard to those suspected on reasonable grounds, 25 percent are aged between 15-20,” she said.

But the government proposal has been criticised by more than half of the referral bodies party to the legislative process. Among those that question whether the measure will have any affect on youth crime are the Ombudsmen of Justice (Justitieombudsmännen – JO).

“JO has found that there are insufficient grounds on which to base the claim that the proposal would have any preventative effect. There is therefore no basis for making an exception from the core principle that the person who commits a crime should pay the penalty,” Malou Lindblom at JO told The Local.

The proposal has also drawn criticism from the Swedish Prosecution Authority (Åklagarmyndigheten), the Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern – JK) and the Swedish Bar Association (Advokatsamfundet). Both Stockholm and Uppsala Universities have also argued that current research does not support the claim that the measure will help to tackle youth crime.

Some fear that the measure may even make the situation worse for many children living in abusive situations.

But the proposal has gained support from some quarters – among them, the Children’s Ombudsman (Barnombudsmannen – BO).

“Currently children accumulate the debts incurred, which fall due when they come of age (18 in Sweden). This causes all sorts of problems in later life,” Catherine Johnsson at BO told The Local.

“Parents should take responsibility for their children and for the consequences of their actions,” she said.

In a bid to tackle youth criminal behaviour, the government also intends to extend police powers, including the right to spot search, to collect DNA and to perform drug tests. These proposals will come into force on July 1st.

“If we are to break a criminal development then we have to react very strongly if we see that there is a pattern,” Ask said.

The government also intends to place “clearer, higher demands” on social services and to work for greater cooperation between the social services and the police.

“It is not a question of punishing the children, but to give qualitative information to the social services to determine the measures that a young person could need,” Beatrice Ask said.

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CRIME

Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 

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More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

 
The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.” 
 
 
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