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Audit: 'serious problems' in Swedish legal system

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Audit: 'serious problems' in Swedish legal system
18:10 CET+01:00
Sweden's legal system is plagued by serious shortcomings, according to a new report, which argues that a lack of coordination between different agencies as well as “weak” government management are to blame for long clearing times for criminal cases.

A review carried out by the Swedish National Audit Office (Riksrevisionen) concludes that cases languish too long with the police, prosecutors and courts, and that coordination between the different branches of the Swedish legal system functions poorly.

A lack of resources isn't the problem; rather it's how those resources are used and how operations are led, Auditor General Jan Landahl wrote in an opinion piece published on Thursday in the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

The agency has conducted reviews of several areas of the legal system, including work done with young offenders, canceled trials, the search for stolen items and compensation paid to criminal victims.

Despite several governments having devoted more resources to the Swedish judicial system and launching various reforms, many of the problems with long clearance times haven't been solved.

“The problems that people discussed and tried to fix in the early 2000s are still there,” Landahl told the TT news agency.

“I think that's very serious.”

The inefficiencies often stem from a lack of coordination between different agencies, like the police and prosecutors, or the courts and the prison system.

In an attempt to better understand the problem, the Audit Office also examined the government's management of the legal system.

“The management has been inconsistentl,” said Landahl.

“They manage according to one parameter one year and then forget it the next. It's only natural in a political environment.”

He added, however, that when the government has forced agencies to work together, the results can be successful.

“The government has a responsibility for a massive, heavy machine. And the management has simply been too weak and not very cohesive,” said Landahl.

The criticism isn't new and police are working continually with the issues highlighted by the Audit Office, according to National Police Commissioner Bengt Svenson.

He agreed that more crimes need to be solved more quickly, but also had his reservations about the report.

“I don't think the Audit Office has delivered a report about efficacy because criminality has changed during this time,” he told TT, citing a rise in internet fraud which requires a long time to investigate.

He also pointed to other measures of success, such as a study which found that the number of crimes solved per police officer had increased from 12 per officer in 1995 to 18 cases per officer in 2009.

Svenson admitted, however, that cases involving young people, which according to law are supposed to be handled quickly, aren't moving as fast as they should.

“Young people are right to demand that authorities treat them as mandated by requirements put forward by the Riksdag and the government and we need to be better at that,” he said.

He suggested that reorganizing the Swedish police force was one option to help address the problem.

“My decided opinion is that we have too many police agencies and we could have a more effective police corps if we had another structure,” said Svenson.

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