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.
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.