Swedish prisons

Swedish prisons

19 January 2011 by Pelle Neroth

Sweden's justice system is in the news at the moment because of efforts to extradite Julian Assange from the UK.

Assange, founder of the Wikileaks organisation, which recently published thousands of confidential American diplomatic cables, is wanted for questioning about alleged sexual offences. He denies any wrongdoing. The extradition hearing will be held in London in February.

Sweden's procedures for dealing with those accused of crimes are worthy of consideration, and indeed have been the subject of several reports by the Council of Europe.

Sweden is a harsher society than people think, and Swedish law, society and morality can be surprisingly authoritarian.

Prison chaplain Birgitta Winberg, who has gained huge experience of other nations' prison systems as president of the International Prison Chaplains' Association, visits Swedish prisoners on remand and thinks the world has a rosy view of her country.

Winberg describes Swedish remand prisons as the worst in Europe. 'In no other country are people in isolation before they are charged,' she said. A high proportion of prisoners - as much as 70 per cent at Kronoberg, in Stockholm - are placed under restrictions that may see them in their cells for 23 hours a day. Only visits from a lawyer and priest are allowed.

The prosecutor has to reapply to a judge for a remand extension every two weeks while amassing evidence that would justify charging the suspect, but it's usually a mere formality. Isolation makes it difficult to prepare a case, for example by securing an alibi.

Winberg said: 'Police and prosecutors are very powerful in Sweden, the odds are stacked against the defence. They represent the strong state and, once a suspect is arrested, there is this belief the state is always right.'

International organisations have also expressed concern at Swedish isolation policies. In a report published in December 2009, the Council of Europe wrote that, despite an 'ongoing dialogue' about remand conditions, Sweden had done little since previous visits and CoE concerns remained valid. The report said its delegates talked to remand prisoners and that the 'overwhelming majority had been given no explanation of the restrictions imposed on them. Many considered that the only reason why they were being prohibited contact with their family members was to 'break' them.'

The health of the accused is often severely strained. The report says many prisoners suffer a lack of concentration, memory disturbance, impaired communication skills, as well as various physical symptoms. 'Symptoms of anxiety disorder are commonly seen, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression can develop, and also agitation and self-harm.'

In its response, the Swedish government points out that, from an international point of view, the country has relatively short periods of detention. Also, a court may only base its judgement on what has been orally presented during the main hearing. 'This principle makes it important to ensure that a suspect does not undermine the investigation, for instance by talking to witnesses and victims in order to make them change their statements.'

A new law coming into force in April includes the possibility to appeal against the isolation restrictions, in line with CoE recommendations.

Further information:

Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent

Share |


    Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 19 January 2011 06:21 PM     General  

FuseTalk Standard Edition - © 1999-2016 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1607

"As the dust settles after the referendum result, we consider what happens next. We also look forward to an international summer of sport."

E&T jobs

  • Control System Engineer

    United Utilities
    • Lancaster, Lancashire
    • Up to £33415 + Comprehensive Benefits

    Provide ICA maintenance and engineering support to the Water & Wastewater Production

    • Recruiter: United Utilities

    Apply for this job

  • Signal Processing Engineer

    B&W Group
    • Steyning, West Sussex
    • Competitive Salary

    We are looking for a Signal Processing Engineer to support the R&D process on active loudspeaker products.

    • Recruiter: B&W Group

    Apply for this job

  • Principal Mechanical & Electrical Engineer

    De Montfort University
    • Leicestershire
    • Grade G: £36,672 - £46,414 per annum

    Join the Projects Team to develop and manage medium to large projects on the university estate.

    • Recruiter: De Montfort University

    Apply for this job

  • Advanced Commissioning Engineer

    National Grid
    • Nottinghamshire, Nottingham, England
    • £46000 - £57000 per year

    National Grid is at the heart of energy in the UK. The electricity we provide gets the nation to work, powers schools and lights everyone's way home. Our energy network connects the nation, so it's essential that it's continually evolving, advancing and i

    • Recruiter: National Grid

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Design Engineer

    Oxford Instruments
    • Yatton, Bristol
    • Competitive salary plus excellent benefits

    We are looking for an electrical designer to join our engineering design team.

    • Recruiter: Oxford Instruments

    Apply for this job

  • Skilled Electrical Fitter

    • Bolton
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What?s the opportunity?   The Electrical Fitter will carry out manufacturing and test tasks within the electrical department in accordance with product certification procedures, defined workmanship  ...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Manufacturing Technician

    • Stevenage
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What?s the opportunity?   As a qualified craftsman with experience in electrical manufacturing, the Manufacturing Technician will report to a Team Leader, receiving day to day ...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • Consultant Engineer (Electrical Power)

    BAE Systems
    • Cumbria, Barrow-In-Furness, England
    • Negotiable

    Consultant Engineer (Electrical Power) Would you like to play a key role in providing technical direction to the design of power systems on the Successor class submarines, which will replace the current Trident-equipped Vanguard class, currently in servic

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electrician

    The Bristol Port Company
    • City of Bristol
    • C. £31,729 per annum plus supplements, benefits and overtime

    You’re a good team worker with a strong technical capacity – so bring your talents to a new role with one of the area’s leading employers.

    • Recruiter: The Bristol Port Company

    Apply for this job

  • Supply Restoration Team Manager (HV/SAP)

    • Oxford, Oxfordshire
    • Salary: £37,588 to £49,645 + Car (SSE8) Depending on skills and experience

    SSE is looking to recruit a Supply Restoration Team Manager to join our existing team in Oxford.

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T