The Parliamentary Ombudsmen (JO) are appointed by the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) to ensure that public authorities and their staff comply with the laws and other statutes governing their actions.
MK was suspected of arson and was himself injured in the fire. His medical care lasted a long time in hospital. During his hospital stay, a relatively extensive interrogation was held, at which MK's public defence counsel was not present. The Parliamentary Ombudsman's inquiry relates to the issue of MK’s right to defend himself being thereby compromised. The decision noted that the hearing was thorough and the allegations directed at MK were serious. He himself was badly injured, and moreover there was a fear that he was not mentally stable at the time of questioning. Against this background, it is in the Parliamentary Ombudsman's view clear that MK would have been advised by a defence counsel during the hearing. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the conditions were therefore such that the hearing following an objective judgement should not have been held without a defence counsel being present. In such cases, the assessment of the need for a defence counsel is not transferred to the suspect or the defence counsel, but it is the police and prosecutors who have the ultimate responsibility for a suspect being given access to a defence counsel when needed. It is primarily the head of the preliminary inquiry who is responsible for a suspect’s right to a defence counsel being respected. As part of the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman makes certain statements about the division of responsibility between the head of the interrogation and the head of the preliminary inquiry in the matter of a defence counsel’s presence at the hearing. The Parliamentary Ombudsman also states that the head of the preliminary inquiry in this case was entitled to assume that the defence counsel was present at the hearing. The head of the interrogation did not address the issue of the presence of the defence counsel with the head of the preliminary inquiry before she decided to conduct the hearing with MK without a defence counsel. The head of the preliminary inquiry can not be held responsible for the interrogation being conducted in the manner it took place The interrogator is criticised for not respecting MK's right of access to a defence counsel at the hearing. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman highlights that the right to a defence counsel is fundamental to a suspects' right to defend himself. It is therefore pertinent that in such matters qualified assessments are made and that they are factual. The Parliamentary Ombudsman also stresses the importance of any waiver from a defence counsel taking place in a legally secure manner.
The Parliamentary Ombudsman's inquiry has concerned the matter of whether a detained person's right to defend himself has been compromised by the hearing being conducted without a public defence counsel being present and not being notified that the hearing was to be held. The decision states that if a suspect has a defence counsel that is entitled to attend a hearing, he or she is to be notified as to the time and place of the hearing. This applies regardless of the suspect's attitude to allowing himself to be questioned without a defence counsel being present. It is essential that the defence counsel is notified so that he or she is able to safeguard the suspect's rights by either attending the hearing or at least consulting with the suspect. The Parliamentary Ombudsman also states that it is primarily the head of the preliminary inquiry that is responsible for a suspect’s right to counsel being respected. The action to notify a public defence counsel for the hearing to be held by an individual in custody may normally be regarded as a routine operation to be performed by the head of the interrogation without any specific directive from the head of the preliminary inquiry. It is therefore solicitous that the head of the interrogation notifies the head of the preliminary inquiry whether he or she, for any reason, considers that he must depart from this routine. It is the view of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, it is remarkable that the head of the interrogation in this case had not notified the public defence counsel that the hearing was to be held. In light of what has been revealed, she did not address the issue of whether the interrogation could be implemented without the suspect's defence counsel being present with the head of the preliminary inquiry. The head of the interrogation is criticised for jeopardising the suspect's legal rights through her actions
JS, who was 15, was arrested on suspicion of, among other things, attempted aggravated assault. In connection with the arrest, the police held an interrogation without him having a defence counsel present. The Parliamentary Ombudsman's inquiry relates to the issue of JS’s right to defend himself being thereby compromised. The decision states that the area to hold an interrogation on the merits of the case - i.e. a more comprehensive interrogation than a hearing - with a suspect who is under 18 without a defence council is generally very limited. If the young person is also detained, there should in principle never be a hearing on the merits without a defence counsel being present. This is now explicitly clear in the Prosecutor General's guidelines on young people's right to a defence counsel. Given that JS was only 15 years old, that he was in custody and that the criminal allegations concerned a serious crime, according to the opinion of the Parliamentary Ombudsman it was obvious that he should have been advised by a defence counsel during the hearing. If a defence counsel was unable to attend, the interrogation should have been limited to hearing the served criminal allegations and his attitude towards them and to indicate whether he would like the presences of a defence counsel. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, the circumstances were therefore such that the hearing following an objective judgement should not have been held without a defence counsel being present. In such cases, the assessment of the need for a defence counsel is not transferred to the suspect or his or her guardian, but it is the police and prosecutors who have the ultimate responsibility for a suspect being given access to a defence counsel when needed. It is primarily the head of the preliminary inquiry who is responsible for a suspect’s right to a defence counsel being respected. In order for the head of the preliminary inquiry to be able to assume responsibility for these issues as part of the inquiry work, it requires that the head of the interrogation communicates and consults with the head of the preliminary inquiry. Given what has emerged in the case, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has emphasised the importance of information on the right to access to a defence counsel being provided in such a way that it does not risk being perceived as pressure on the suspect to waive his right to a defence counsel. The then Örebro County Police Authority can be criticised for the initial interrogation of JS being carried out without access to a defence counsel.
In the provisions in Chapter 26, Section 6 of the Penal Code, the general rule applies that the offender is conditionally released when two thirds of a fixed-term sentence or at least one month has been served. If there are any exceptional reasons against conditional release, it must be deferred. It is the Swedish Prison and Probation Service that determines on deferred conditional release (Chapter 26, Section 9 of the Penal Code). Issues concerning deferred conditional release must be settled promptly as specified in Chapter 12, Section 3 of the Prison Act (2010:610). The question of deferred conditional release is of particular importance to the inmate. It is important that the Swedish Prison and Probation Service in good time ahead of the conditional release and in line with the general rule, should be deciding on a possible deferred conditional release to ensure that the inmate has the option of requesting a review and appeal. That decisions are taken in good time before the conditional release is also relevant for the planning of any transition, and to ensure that other release preparations are not hampered. In the case in question, an inmate had been sentenced to a prison term of one year and six months. The inmate had been told by a client administrator in the prison that the issue of deferred conditional release is normally admissible one month before the date of the conditional release. However, the case of deferred conditional release was only initiated two days before the conditional release was to take place and decisions on deferred conditional release were therefore taken the day before the conditional release would otherwise have taken place. The supporting documentation that formed the basis for the decision on deferred conditional release related to a number of incidences of misconduct that had occurred from the beginning of the enforcement and onwards. According to the chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, the prison must have been able to rule on deferring the conditional release in good time before the deadline for conditional release. The prison is criticised for initiating the case of deferred conditional release only two days before the conditional release was to take place.
A student was not permitted to hand out leaflets with political content at his school. The leaflet was signed by a political party and the Head Teacher justified his decision by saying that he had the right to deny outsiders access to the school in which to spread printed matter. The Head Teacher also stated that any information that students wanted to distribute at the school had to be approved by him. The management at a school may prevent printed material from being distributed, but only if this is down to reasons of orderliness. As in this case it was a pupil distributing leaflets at the school, the fact that the school is not to be considered a public place has no significance. The fact that the leaflet contained political information was crucial to the Head Teacher's decision in not allowing it to be distributed. The Head Teacher's statement on the preliminary examination could, according to the Parliamentary Ombudsman in this context not be perceived otherwise than as a restriction to the constitutionally protected freedom of the press. The action of the Head Teacher, in the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s view, therefore is in violation of the prohibition against distribution obstructions as set out in Chapter 1, Section 2, second paragraph of the Freedom of the Press Act. The Head Teacher is criticised for this action.
During a child protection inquiry pursuant to Chapter 11, Section 1 of the Social Services Act, SoL, social welfare officers visited a child at the child’s preschool to observe the child. Social welfare officers then also held a conversation with the child at the preschool. The observation and the conversation were carried out without the consent of the guardians. The Parliamentary Ombudsman states that because children in preschool are very young, a visit by Social Welfare Board officers to the preschool arouses less attention than a similar visit to a children's school. The risk of an unnecessary intrusion into the child's integrity is significantly less when it comes to contact with a child in preschool than for children that are older. The conversation with the child was held in such a way that there are no grounds for the Parliamentary Ombudsman to criticise the Social Welfare Board for holding the conversation at the preschool. When the Social Welfare Board administrators meet the parents and the child, for example, at a home visit, the administrator may make some observations concerning, among other things, parental care of the child and the child's behaviour. The findings may be such that they are to be considered in the inquiry. In some cases it may also be necessary for the social welfare administrators to arrange their own observations of the child. However, an inquiry measure in the form of a specially arranged “observation” has been proposed, which in the view of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, is a sensitive measure. There is a risk that public confidence in the social services is harmed if the board is perceived as “spying” on individuals. Such investigative measures are not accommodated either in the rules in SoL that entitle the Social Welfare Board to gather information or to hear the child without the consent of a guardian. If the child to be observed is not taken care of based on The Care of Young Persons (Special Provisions) Act (1990:52), this requires, in the Parliamentary Ombudsman's view, the consent of the guardian to allow the arranged observation to be conducted. The Parliamentary Ombudsman criticizes the Social Welfare Board for the observation of the child being conducted in the manner that it was conducted.
In November and December 2015, 25 unaccompanied children arrived in Malmö municipality that were aged between 15 and 18 years who reported that they were married to an adult. Following a security assessment, one of the children was placed in a care home or accommodation. The remaining children came with their spouses. The question is whether social services in the municipality of Malmö have failed in their responsibility to investigate the married children's need for protection or support. When it comes to children who may be in need of protection or support, the Social Welfare Board is charged with far-reaching investigative responsibility. When an unaccompanied child arrives in Sweden and information emerges that the child is married to an adult, the Social Welfare Board should therefore, in the view of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, generally initiate an inquiry pursuant to Chapter 11, Section 1 of the Social Services Act. The inquiry’s needs for clarification include the child's attitude and their ability to make their own choices as far as possible. To ensure that a child's rights are not violated, there must be a prerequisite ensuring the thoroughness of the Social Welfare Board’s inquiries. One or two conversations upon arrival to Sweden can, in the Parliamentary Ombudsman's view, in most cases, not be considered as adequate. The child must receive personal and relevant information about its rights and opportunities to protection in Sweden. Only after a careful and thorough inquiry can the Social Welfare Board, in the view of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, have a sufficiently good basis for determining whether the child has a real opportunity to express a desire to live with its spouse and if the child is in need of protection or support. Social resource management has stated that an individual protection assessment has been made for all the children in question but that an inquiry has not always been initiated. Management is aware that there have been shortcomings in the handling of cases in terms of it not launching inquiries. Against this background and taking into account the measures that management has already taken, including the reports of concern to the children's hosting municipalities, the Parliamentary Ombudsman finds no grounds to direct any criticism at the Social Welfare Board for examining the cases in question. In the Parliamentary Ombudsman's view, it is important that the issue of unaccompanied married children is immediately followed up by the responsible authorities. A copy of the decision has therefore been sent to the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Questions were raised In the case about this in a Prison and Probation Service-prison-responsibility obligation to immediately notify an inmate's injury to the Social Insurance Agency by submitting an insurance claim. The decision states that the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report on the sequence of events that was requested in a claim is the individual's own, and that the signature by the responsible person of this notification does not certify anything other than that it has been submitted by him or her. Additionally it is stated that it is not the business of the prison to take a position on whether an injury has occurred in such a way that it is covered under the scope of the provisions of the personal injury protection, but that it is instead up to the Social Insurance Agency to make the actuarial assessment of the case. Against this background, the Parliamentary Ombudsman states that it is not the responsibility of the official at the prison to determine the suitability of the detailed content of an insurance claim. The decision criticised the prison as the responsible official did not immediately forward notification from an inmate to the Social Insurance Agency, and that the inmate instead asked to complete a new claim form with less detailed content the submitted form in order to “streamline the sequence of events.” The prison is also criticised for an officer not fulfilling the obligation to notify after the inmate pointed out to her that the Social Insurance Agency had not received the insurance claim.
On 9 June, Justice of the Supreme Administrative Court Elisabeth Rynning was elected unanimously by Parliament to be the new Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman.
Stefan Holgersson started his new position as Parliamentary Ombudsman on April 1, 2016.
The Parliamentary Ombudsmen's overall statements for each supervisory area the year 2014/15. »»
The Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsmen - JOBox 16327 • SE-103 26 Stockholm • SwedenVisiting Address: Västra Trädgårdsgatan 4 AOpening hours: 9.00–12.00, 13.00–15.00