Between 2007 and 2010, less than 40 percent of reported sex crimes resulted in formal charges or other legal procedures which attempted to hold someone accountable, a study carried out by the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper revealed.
Part of the problem, according to current and former prosecutors comes from shoddy investigative work and a lack of coordination between police and prosecutors.
The figures come from a review of statistics covering reports of sex crimes against children and adults kept by the Swedish Prosecution Authority (Åklagarmyndigheten).
The newspaper then compared the figures with the number of cases that were dropped due to a lack of evidence, decisions which are often affected by the quality of the investigation.
“Those who come to the police and report a sex crime need to feel that they matter. We need to uphold the rule of law in these types of cases,” Sven-Erik Alhem, a retired prosecutor and chair of a national association of crime victim support centres, Brottsofferjourernas riksförbund (BOJ), told the newspaper.
“It’s an equally large tragedy if someone doesn’t believe a child who has been victimised by his or her family as if someone is wrongly convicted.”
Magnus Lindgren, a former police officer and current researcher with the Stiftelsen Tryggare Sverige (‘Foundation for a safer Sweden’) told DN that many county police departments lack procedures for handling sex crime accusations, subjecting alleged victims to the luck of the draw when it comes to how their case will be investigated.
He argues that promises of more money and additional measures to address the issue are misguided.
“It’s not more resources that are needed,” Lindgren told the newspaper.
“Instead it’s about having the courage to change outdated attitudes and old structures.”
DN’s investigation also uncovered substantial regional differences in how often sex crime accusations lead to charges.
In Karlskrona in southern Sweden, for example, only one in five reports results in charges being filed. At the other end of the scale is Nyköping in eastern Sweden and Kristianstad, also in the south, where charges are filed for 57 percent of sex crime accusations.
According to local prosecutor Eva Nordberg, Kristianstad’s high rate of moving forward with sex crime cases is likely due to “good cooperation with police”.