“When I read the indictment, a loud murmur erupted in the courtroom,” Stockholm District Court judge Hans Cederberg told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
“The wrong man was sitting in the defendant’s seat.”
Not even the defence attorney present at the trial had picked up on the mistake, having shaken the defendant’s hand prior to the start of the trial without raising any objections that the man he had greeted was not in fact the person on trial.
It later emerged that the mix up occurred at the Kronoberg jail, which had sent the wrong man up to court.
As the jail is located in a building adjacent to the court, it didn’t take long for officials to get the “right” suspect, allowing the trial to restart 20 minutes later.
A representative from the Kronoberg jail refused to comment on the incident.
However, prosecutor Carl Asterius said the incident raises serious questions about the measures used to verify suspects’ identity.
“We can laugh about it now, but it could have been really bad. The wrong person could have sat through the trial and the verdict delivered even though the wrong person had participated,” he told DN.
According to Asterius, courts don’t generally carry out an identity check before trials, something which he argues represents a risk to carrying out the rule of law.
“The potential is there to manipulate the process and have a chatty person do the talking during a trial,” he told DN.