“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.