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.
A person who had been remanded in absentia was sent by police to the detention centre in Göteborg. According to applicable regulations, a detention hearing should have taken place within four days of the detention order having been enforced. For unclear reasons a hearing was never held, and thus there were no legal grounds for keeping the inmate in custody after the four days had passed. Despite this, the inmate remained in custody for another six weeks. In its response to JO, the Prison and Probation Service has stated that the authority has no formal responsibility to report to the prosecutor or court when a detention order has been enforced. Furthermore, the Prison and Probation Service has stated that it is not possible for a detention centre to “take on routine monitoring responsibility for ensuring that all clients' processing deadlines are kept”. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman emphasises that the action of detaining an individual is one of the most intrusive forms of exercised authority. As the authority effecting such decisions, the Prison and Probation Service has a central role in the detention process. As the Prison and Probation Service is the authority that physically controls the detainee, the authority is also well placed to detect and sound the alarm if an inmate has “been forgotten” by any of the other actors in the process. For these reasons it is, according to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, entirely reasonable to require the Prison and Probation Service to take responsibility for ensuring that its operational centres not only conduct the initial verification of the grounds for detention, but also monitor to ensure that these grounds persist throughout the entire period of detention. If it was accepted that the Prison and Probation Service does not need to take such responsibility, there is, according to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, a significant risk that the incident in the detention centre in Göteborg will happen again. This is completely unacceptable in a state governed by law. What has emerged in this case gives the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman the impression that the Prison and Probation Service does not want to take on the responsibilities that come with the central role assumed by the authority when it comes to detaining people. By not doing this, the authority has also failed to establish procedures to ensure that the authority's employees conduct the necessary checks to ensure that there are legal grounds for keeping a person locked up. This shortcoming has resulted in the incident in the detention centre in Göteborg and, for this, the Prison and Probation Service deserves serious criticism.
The chairman of a foundation contacted an official at the County Administrative Board of Stockholm County for advice on certain matters concerning the foundation and the work of the Board. Within the framework of the supervisory assignment, the official attended a number of board meetings. At one of the meetings, the official acted as if he was a trustee of the foundation, but without having such an appointment, and on these grounds made three decisions in the Board's stead. At another board meeting, the official voted without being entitled to do so. He also incorrectly handled an appeal of a decision regarding an enforcement prohibition. JO concludes that the official has, in several respects, failed in the execution of his supervisory assignment. Because he - when acting as a trustee - consciously exceeded the limits of his authority, JO directs serious criticism against him. The County Administrative Board is also criticised for the official's actions.
JO has examined the detention times in matters concerning judicial assistance under the Care of Abusers (Special Provisions) Act (LVM) and has requested that the Police Authority report the time in custody for the people who have spent more than 24 hours in police custody. During the review time period (18 months), the Police Authority has reported about 80 cases where the detention time exceeded 24 hours. According to the Police Authority, the long detention times in many cases are due to the Prison and Probation Service's transport service not having sufficient resources to carry out the transports that the Police Authority has ordered. JO points out in the decision that it is not acceptable that the time in custody amounts to several days, and that transports are delayed because the transport service cannot perform them. The decision states that the transport of an individual who is subject to judicial assistance under LMV should generally commence no later than the day after he or she has been found. Furthermore it is noted that it is unfortunate that the division of responsibility between the Police Authority and the Prison and Probation Service regarding the transport of detainees has not yet been regulated in statute. The Police Authority is reminded that, within the framework of the current regulation, it has ultimate responsibility for the transport being carried out within a reasonable time.
The Prison and Probation Service, the prisons in Färingsö, Sagsjön and Ystad, has applied procedures which have meant that the prisons have implemented measures with the inmates' mail. In Färingsö Prison, the staff have scraped off or cut out stamps from the mail items, while the staff in the other two prisons have taken into custody or thrown away the envelopes that the mail items came in. The procedures have the common goal of, inter alia, preventing the inmates from accessing prohibited items (drugs), and these have been applied routinely without any assessment of the individual case. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman criticises the prisons for implementing procedures that have lacked the necessary legal support. Furthermore, it has emerged that the prisons in Sagsjön and Ystad have returned the seized envelopes in conjunction with the inmate's release, despite the suspicion that they are laced with drugs. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman states that, in the event of suspicion, the Prison and Probation Service should report the suspected narcotics offence to the Police Authority. If this is not done, the Prison and Probation Service risks facilitating a relapse into drug abuse, the combating of which is one of the authority's designated missions. According to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, this appears contradictory.
A municipality published documents containing confidential sensitive information on its website. The documents were anonymous but could nevertheless be linked to certain people because their names had been published in the media. The blacking out of data by the municipality was therefore not done with sufficient care. The municipality receives serious criticism for the documents being published on the municipality's website. According to JO, it is positive that the authority strives to be as open as possible towards the public. However, the authority must make careful considerations when it comes to what is published on a website. For such a publication to be authorised, the provisions of the Public Access to Information and Secrecy Act and the Personal Data Act must be followed.
In JO 2014/15 p. 243 (ref. no. 2311-2013), JO investigated the Prison and Probation Service's handling of the placement of inmates in a security unit. In its response, the Prison and Probation Service stated, inter alia, that the authority had initiated a review of the handling of these cases. In her decision, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman stated that she intended to follow up the issue after one year. In a statement to JO, the Prison and Probation Service has presented a process description for the handling of security unit placements. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman states that there a review of this process is necessary in order to create a more legally secure, predictable and comprehensible system. According to the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, the Prison and Probation Service's process description appears on an overall level to be appropriate. Applied correctly, it will strengthen the inmates' legal security but also contribute to greater predictability. The review highlighted that the Prison and Probation Service, in an initial decision on placement in a security unit, has referred to a circumstance that cannot be used as the basis for such a placement. The decision was made before the Prison and Probation Service submitted a statement in JO 2014/15 p. 243, and it has therefore not been affected by the authority's subsequent work with security unit placements. However, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman points out that the Prison and Probation Service has not found any reason to amend the initial decision in a number of review decisions taken after JO 2014/15 p. 243. In all decisions, the Prison and Probation Service has concluded that the authority does not find reason to make any assessment other than what was made in the initial decision. The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman points out that the Prison and Probation Service has, through this formulation, confirmed the erroneous circumstance in the initial decision and thus used it as the basis for a continued placement. In these circumstances, the Prison and Probation Service should have instead corrected the deficiencies in a review decision, and thus receives criticism for having not done this. Finally, the Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman criticises the Prison and Probation Service for the monthly review decisions still being meaningless.
During an inspection of the LVM home Rällsögården, it emerged that the home, in conjunction with threatening situations, has chosen to allow residents to leave the home. As a result of, inter alia, this information, JO obtained a statement from the Swedish National Board of Institutional Care (SiS). In the decision, JO states the following. When someone is receiving compulsory care at an LVM home, they are expected not to be allowed to leave the home without permission. The staff has the authority to use force to restrain a resident who is trying to leave the home or exhibiting violent behaviour. The aim of LVM care, however, is to motivate the individuals to receive care and support measures on a voluntary basis. The purpose of the compulsory care must be factored into the assessment of what level of force is justifiable to use to prevent someone from unlawfully leaving the LVM home. The staff may find themselves in difficult situations with threatening residents where there may also, because of the resident's behaviour, be a risk to the safety of staff or other residents. It can therefore not be ruled out that the staff at the home may, in exceptional cases, allow the resident to leave the home rather than employing force that would not appear to be justified given the aims of the care. If there is a risk that the staff at a home cannot maintain order, SiS must consider adding the extra resources necessary to allow staff to intervene in violent situations and to prevent residents unlawfully leaving the home.
Parliamentary Ombudsman Renfors has noted in the supervision work that in decisions where a restraining order is issued, the reasons stated in these decisions are not sufficiently individualised. She has therefore ordered inspections of five local public prosecution offices, where decisions in cases regarding a restraining order have been reviewed. The starting point for the review has been the requirement in Section 12 of the Restraining Orders Act stipulating that such a decision must be in writing and state the reasons that have determined the outcome. During the inspections it has emerged that in 30-50 per cent of the decisions, the justification did not include clear grounds on which the restraining order is based. The decisions, on the other hand, have essentially appeared to be well-founded in and of themselves. JO notes that a restraining order can be a significant restriction of the individual's personal integrity and freedom of movement. It is therefore important that the reasons are evident from the decision and that it is clear to the person being issued a restraining order what the prosecutor has based the decision on. It is a basic prerequisite for legal certainty that this requirement is fulfilled, and it is, according to JO, vital that improvements be made.
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