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Convicted lay judges found working in Sweden

The Local/og · 20 Feb 2012, 10:51

Published: 20 Feb 2012 10:51 GMT+01:00

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A report by daily Aftonbladet on Monday has brought to light concerns over the courts’ controlling policies in appointing lay judges without checking their background.

“It is, of course, not good at all. I think that everyone who is put on trial assumes that he who judges them will not have such a background. It’s a question of trust and legal certainty,” said Ralf G Larsson, judge at Lund’s court, to the paper.

In Sweden, lay judges serve as part of the bench and are used instead of a jury. There are over 8,000 lay judges in Sweden and their votes carry as much power and responsibility as an educated judge.

The Courts Admissions (Domstolsverket) say that lay judges should be "extra good role models in terms of obedience to the law,” wrote Aftonbladet.

But according to the paper, over 200 of the lay judges serving over the past few years have been investigated for some sort of criminal offence, 11 of whom are still actively serving today.

The judges have been convicted of such crimes as voting fraud, theft, assault, unlawful imprisonment and several cases of aggravated drunk driving.

Today, it is up to the individual lay judge to inform the chief judge if he is served with an order of summary punishment. And from the paper's report, it would seem that many don't.

“A control system must be introduced immediately,” said Larsson to TT.

Now many of the lay judges have left their positions or have been fired by the court.

“We did not at first know of these crimes. But since we received the information we have launched investigations, and none of these reported lay judges work with us any longer,” said chief magistrate Peter Enander to the paper.

Story continues below…

Krister Hammarbergh, spokesperson on legal issues for the Moderate Party told TT news agency that the difficulty lies in where to draw the line.

“A minor traffic offence from many years ago perhaps shouldn’t be a hindrance, but if the person had recently been found guilty of a more serious crime, then they should not be able to judge others,” he said.

The Local/og (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:25 February 20, 2012 by johnny1939
Looks good to me. Who better could judge you than your peers? Keep the system going guys..
13:23 February 20, 2012 by RobinHood
I don't understand. Last year Mr Reinfeldt reassured us and his parliament that Sweden's justice was as good as any in the world. Since then, Malmö seems to have left the Swedish criminal justice system altogether, we have learned that Sweden engages in extra judicial kidnapping and rendition at the request of foreign powers, and 200 judges have been convicted for criminal offences.

Now I'm all confused MR Reinfeldt.
14:05 February 20, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
Corruption and gross incompetence are equally effective ways to destroy a society.

In a normal democracy, there would be serious pressure on the justice minister to resign for running a government department that allows people who are guilty of theft, assault, and unlawful confinement to act as judges.

But here in Sweden, where judges give lighter sentences for gangsters for illegal weapons possession because they 'need these for their work', and where murderers can be fined as little as 50,000 SEK for killing the father of two young girls, or served with a 2 year jail sentence for kicking a woman to death, the judgements are so banal and pointless that the detail that some of the judiciary are convicted felons is barely even noticed.
17:15 February 20, 2012 by Trenatos
It is true, Swedish law needs to be much much harsher on convicted criminals.

The fact that some of the lay judges have a criminal history is absolutely ridiculous! I can't believe this was allowed from the start, that there was no law or policy set for such a case.
20:38 February 20, 2012 by strixy
I am now wondering about the judge who decided the man who later stabbed his ex in front of their kids was 'unlikely to revert back to crime'... .
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