“I want to emphasize that it is not acceptable to let a person stay in detention without clothes for a long time,” the Justice Ombudsman’s office (Justitieombudsmannen – JO) wrote in its official reply to reported police misconduct.
The 37-year-old woman, who was convicted of “violating the peace of the dead” after keeping hundreds of human bones in her Gothenburg apartment, had filed a complaint with the ombudsman in December 2012, claiming she had experienced inhumane and degrading treatment at the detention facility in Mölndal, near Gothenburg in western Sweden.
The woman wrote that she was forced to strip in front of several police officers.
“I felt incredibly violated when I had to stand there naked being stared at,” the woman said, adding that she had been handed only a thin, non-rippable blanket, which became her only cover once she was taken to the cell. Furthermore, she claimed, a police officer inspected one of her tattoos and said “You’re really into death, aren’t you?”
While ‘skeleton lover’ was left naked for half a day, a second case reported to the ombudsman involved a second woman who had been detained without her clothes for over three days.
While the police defended themselves against the allegations by saying the clothes were removed because they considered the two women to be at risk of suicide, the ombudsman said that an independent third-party medical consultation should have been drafted in to assess any self-harming tendencies.
Local police have since revised its guidelines to make sure doctors are called in when detainees showcase suicidal behaviour, the report noted.
The woman was, according to the police, clearly intoxicated at the time of her arrest and was wildly moody, saying that she wanted to die, and tying her shirt around her own neck. She also hit her head against the wall, before being transferred to a cell where she could be monitored.
While it was acceptable to remove clothing, the ombudsman’s judgment read, the prolonged lack of access to clothing was not justified,
The police furthermore told the ombudsman they could not reply to the woman’s claim that she had been insulted and denigrated by police officers at the detention centre on Aminogatan. Among other claims, one officer called her a c*** and a b****. She furthermore claimed that she was not given undergarments until she began menstruating in the cell.
“As far as we can tell from the police’ statements, the officers present at the time were not given the opportunity to give their opinions,” the judgment noted of the police’s official reply to the initial allegations.
“This is a failure on the part of the police.”
The police themselves, in a statement by Greater Gothenburg police spokeswoman Carina Persson, admitted that record-keeping at the time of the woman’s detention fell well below acceptable standards. There was no explanation of why the woman had been assessed as suicidal, nor any note of which officer took the decision to deprive her of her clothing.
The legal newspaper Dagens Juridik reported on Wednesday that the Swedish police are now at work revising regulations, especially regarding the supervision of detainees.
The woman, who has continually denied any wrongdoing, was arrested in September 2012 when police arrived at her flat and found human skeletons and knives after responding to a call about gunfire coming from the apartment.
She was convicted of disturbing the peace of the dead (griftesfriden) in mid-December.
The Gothenburg District Court also convicted the woman of weapon crimes, sentencing her to probation and ordering that she undergo treatment for addiction and psychiatric problems.