Activities overview 2017/18

During the year, a previously initiated supervision of the Opcat activities was completed. In connection with the supervision, changes were made to the procedures of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen and the guidelines for the Opcat activities. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen were granted additional funding in the budget year 2018 to meet the need for a reinforced Opcat unit. A deputy head of unit and an additional rapporteur have been hired, and as of 1 June 2018 the unit consists of six employees. With these increased resources, the Opcat activities are better equipped to assist the Ombudsmen in their role as National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) under the Optional Protocol, Opcat, to the United Nations Convention against Torture.

Over the year, the Opcat unit has continued its regular exchange on issues regarding substance and method with the Ombudsman institutions in Denmark, Norway and Finland, who, like the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, fulfil their assignment as NPM. Iceland's Ombudsman institution also participates in these meetings since they will be formally appointed NPM. Furthermore, over the year the unit has participated in several European meetings and communicated with a number of volunteer organisations at a national level.

Inspections during the year

During the past year, 17 inspections were conducted (of which eight in area of responsibility 2, three in area of responsibility 3 and six in area of responsibility 4). The theme for 2018 is transports of detainees. During the year, a survey of this area will be made, and issues will be addressed in further inspections on the same theme in 2019. The theme in 2017 was supervision of detainees. In addition to inspections in the past year, this report also includes a few inspections conducted in previous years, where the reports regarding the inspections were adopted in this year.

Both the number of inspections and the number of inspection days has decreased compared with the previous year. This is mainly because the Opcat unit has not, for various reasons, been fully staffed. Overall, 25 inspection days were used in the year. The composition of the inspection teams has varied and was adapted mainly to, for example, the size, target group and security class, if applicable, of the visited institution. For example, two visits were made to the Police Authority in the context of an inspection of the authority's temporary detention facilities and the detention centre in Gothenburg in connection with the EU summit on 17 November 2017. As of 1 January 2018, as a main rule, one rapporteur from a supervisory department must always participate in inspections conducted by the Opcat unit. During the year, nine unannounced inspections were conducted, which included all the inspections of residential homes for young people run by the Swedish National Board of Institutional Care (SiS).

During the year, the Opcat unit conducted several follow-up inspections, including inspections of some of the Police Authority's detention facilities and SiS's LVU-home Rebecka.

Inspections of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service

On the instructions of Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Elisabeth Rynning, during the year, the Opcat unit inspected four of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service's detention facilities and two institutions. Several were follow-up inspections where the Parliamentary Ombudsmen had previously expressed an opinion and issued recommendations for measures, for example, the institutions Visby and Hinseberg. The main focus of the inspections was transport.

After the inspections of the detention facilities in the first six months of 2017, it was noted that a large proportion of detainees who were not subject to restrictions were placed in restricted places and therefore not given any possibility during daytime to be in communal areas (ref. no. 416-2017, 417-2017, 418-2017, 419-2017 and 581-2017). The Swedish Prison and Probation Service was asked by Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Elisabeth Rynning to review their procedures regarding reporting and documentation of detainees' access to communal areas, and measures to reduce isolation in relation to detainees who are not granted such access. In June 2018, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service reported to the Parliamentary Ombudsmen on this work. The report indicates that the placement situation in the country's detention facilities is strained, which means that, according to the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, it is still difficult to cater to the need for group placement of detainees. The authority states that over 160 new group places have been created since the inspections. In relation to measures reducing isolation, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service has started work on developing a uniform and effective planning and review tool, which clearly supports local measures to reduce isolation and provides a correct basis on a national level.

One of the most important issues for the Swedish Prison and Probation Service in the years ahead is the work on measures to reduce isolation and to try, through such measures, to counteract the negative consequences that may result from deprivation of liberty. It is positive that work has been initiated to create more flexible detention operations and that several additional places have been created in the past year that facilitate detention in groups. The high occupancy rate in detention operations and the increased need for institutional places is worrying, since it may lead, going forward, to a lack of places in the Swedish Prison and Probation Service and consequential difficulties in catering to the need, for example, for group places in detention facilities. As of April 2017, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service has an obligation to assist other authorities with transports of detainees. As a rule, during transport, detainees are placed in the Swedish Prison and Probation Service's detention facilities, and it is questionable whether and how this extended transport assignment affects the availability of places. Accordingly, it is a crucial issue for the Parliamentary Ombudsmen to observe how the Swedish Prison and Probation Service works in this field. The focus of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen's work is the situation of detainees, and this includes how the Swedish Prison and Probation Service works to create a flexible organisation enabling the authority to cater to the right of detainees who are not subject to restrictions to stay in a group with other detainees during daytime. The report indicates that considerable work remains to be done in relation to this issue. There are also grounds for the Parliamentary Ombudsmen to review how measures reducing isolation taken in relation to individual detainees are documented.

The inspections during the year also showed that detainees of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service remain subject to considerably worse conditions than individuals in the Migration Agency's detention facilities. Detainees of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service do not have the same possibility of exercising their statutory rights. Of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service's detention centres, Storboda complies, to the greatest extent, the requirements of the legislation. On the other side of the scale are, for example, Huddinge and Sollentuna detention centres, where detainees often stay under conditions that apply to detainees subject to restrictions. This means that a detainee can be locked up in their room 23 hours a day. It is problematic that detainees of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service are still in environments where their statutory rights cannot be met. Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Elisabeth Rynning stated that action must be taken to change the situation for detainees of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, and she therefore decided to follow up the issue in an enquiry. In the report following the inspection of the Storboda detention facility, Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Elisabeth Rynning refers to a previous decision where the Parliamentary Ombudsmen stated that it would be optimal for the Migration Agency to assume all responsibility for detainees who will not be expelled after having served a prison sentence and that the Swedish Prison and Probation Service should be released from this assignment (ref. no. 581-2017). The Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman will return to this issue in the context of the same enquiry. Detainees of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service constitute an issue that will continue to be central in the Parliamentary Ombudsmen's Opcat activities.

In a decision in an enquiry dated 14 June 2018, Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Elisabeth Rynning stated her view on the placement of detainees in solitary confinement (ref. no. 5969-2015 see p. 146). This initiative was taken in connection with an Opcat-inspection of the Helsingborg detention facility and comprised, among others, segregated placement without formal decisions. The decision stated that the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, by relocating detainees and changing the proportion of the number of group placements, controls the placement situation and can therefore prevent most situations where the detainees cannot be placed in group placements. It was also noted that the Swedish Prison and Probation Service did not fully consider the Parliamentary Ombudsmen's previous views that a lack of resources or lack of a possibility to differentiate between detainees are not acceptable grounds for keeping a detainee segregated from other detainees. According to Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Elisabeth Rynning it is deeply unsatisfactory that a detainee is not granted, for organisational reasons or other reasons that the detainee cannot influence, a possibility of staying in a group. This issue is also a part of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen's continued work on following work to reduce isolation of detainees.

Time spent outdoors daily fills an important function to counteract the potential negative consequences of detention. In order for time spent outdoors to fulfil this function, the outdoor environments (exercise areas) for detainees must be designed so that detainees can observe their environment. However, this aspect has had a secondary role in the design of exercise areas in for example detention facilities, where security considerations have prevailed. There are grounds for monitoring the Swedish Prison and Probation Service’s actions to address the potential problems caused by deficient outdoor environments.

Inspections of compulsory psychiatric care and legal psychiatric care

In Sweden, compulsory psychiatric care is operated by county councils. In 2017, there were at least around 80 compulsory psychiatric care institutions with a total of around 4,000 places. Persons who are subject to compulsory psychiatric care according to the Compulsory Psychiatric Care Act (1991:1128), CPCA, and persons who have been sentenced to forensic psychiatric care and are cared for under the Forensic Psychiatric Care Act (1991: 1129), FPCA, are placed in these institutions. The Health and Social Care Inspectorate (IVO) is responsible for keeping an automated register of healthcare institutions and units where care may be administered according to the CPCA or the FPCA and of other forensic psychiatric examination units (Chapter 2, article 4 second paragraph and Chapter 7, article 7 of the Patient Safety Act [2010:659]).

In 2014 the Opcat unit noted that the information in the IVO's register was partly incomplete; among others, in several cases, the information on the head of operations was incorrect. Therefore, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen decided to investigate the matter in the context of a special case (ref. no. 733-2015). IVO stated in its statement that the authority was considering suitable measures both in the short and the long term, having regard to the findings. In a decision dated 9 May 2016, the then Parliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson expressed some criticism that IVO had failed to update the register. In the past year, it has emerged that it remains difficult to get an overview of the number of places available for compulsory psychiatric care. This is troublesome from several points of view. This issue was also described in the report: För barnets bästa? (SOU 2017:111) [In the interests of the child?]. The report highlights, among others, that it is very important in relation to the investigation’s proposals that there is total control over which clinics operate compulsory care of children (p. 279). However, the investigation did not include proposals in this part. There are grounds for the Parliamentary Ombudsmen to return to this issue.

During the year, two psychiatric clinics were visited following the instructions of Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Elisabeth Rynning, Danderyd hospital ward 130/PIVA and the compulsory psychiatric care in Region Gotland.

Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Elisabeth Rynning stated in the report after an inspection in the early summer of 2017 of Stockholm County Council's Children's and adolescent psychiatric clinic's full-time care (BUP), that it is important to be able to follow the development of compulsory measures taken systematically over time. Furthermore, she stated that minor patients in compulsory care must generally be deemed to be vulnerable. It is therefore particularly important that they are examined by a doctor in connection with a decision to restrain or segregate. It was noted during the inspection that supervision of patients in residential premises was conducted in a variety of ways by staff, that supervision was documented only in exceptional cases, and that observations made were communicated verbally and documented in writing "only if something special happened". Furthermore, there was no written procedure regarding what must be documented and by whom. Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Elisabeth Rynning stated that the clinic must take action to ensure that there are sufficient staff resources to conduct necessary supervision, and that the staff always has the information about the patients that they need to conduct the supervision in a manner that is safe for patients (ref. no. 3816-2017).

Inspections of the Swedish National Board of Institutional Care's residential homes for young people and LVM-homes

During the year, three special youth homes were inspected. During the inspection of one such home, it was noted that the staff had, in two cases, delayed documentation regarding review decisions on care in solitary confinement by several days. Acting Parliamentary Ombudsman Lilian Wiklund stated that it is important for documentation to be drafted promptly. It must also be possible, based on the documentation, to determine whether the detainee was notified of the contents in the decision and whether the individual received information on how he or she can appeal the decision (ref. no. 5903-2017). The inspection also gave acting Parliamentary Ombudsman Lilian Wiklund grounds for investigating an event when staff at the home restrained a detained youth for nearly one hour (ref. no. 6774-2017).

In autumn 2017, reports were adopted following inspections conducted in spring the same year. Among others, at the inspection of the LVM-home Renforsen, it emerged that staff had different understandings of how frequently they should check on segregated detainees (ref. no 2514-2017). The then Parliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson stated that the home must clarify how the supervision must be conducted. In connection with the inspection of the LVM-home Lunden, it was noted that supervision approved in connection with a risk of suicide could continue for several weeks without any continuous assessment of the need for such supervision (ref. no. 2515-2017). Parliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson stated that the home must review how care in solitary confinement and segregation is conducted and take action to ensure that approved supervision is conducted and documented. In one of the inspected LVM-homes, staff stated that the premises used for care in segregation was not effective. Since such care can continue for a relatively long time, Parliamentary Ombudsman Stefan Holgersson invited the home to contact the head office of SiS to discuss how these deficiencies would be addressed (ref. no. 1762-2017).

Opcat inspections of Police detention facilities

During the year, six detention facilities were inspected, of which three were follow-up inspections. One inspection related to the temporary detention facility in Gothenburg and the detention centre Gothenburg in connection with the EU summit on 17 November 2017 (ref. no. 7081-2017). The Opcat unit made two visits, one before the summit and the second during the summit. The temporary detention facility was built at the end of September 2017 and consisted of 40 detention cells placed in the garage of the police building. The detention facility was operational 16-18 November 2017 and allowed for the police to detain a large number of persons (around 100 detainees and 200 protected). No detainees were placed in the temporary detention facility, but 85 individuals were placed in the ordinary police detention facility during the relevant period.

The report indicates that the police had intended, at the summit, to fill a few cells at a time by placing several persons in the same cell rather than starting by placing detainees in individual cells and then, if needed, filling up the cells with more detainees. Parliamentary Ombudsman Cecilia Renfors stated that placement of two or more detainees in the same cell should still be viewed as an exception and not a general rule. Obviously, this applies not only in case of placement of persons taken into custody under the Police Act (1984:387) but also in case of placement of several persons who are suspected offenders. Parliamentary Ombudsman Cecilia Renfors also noted the intention of the Police Authority to determine the political affiliation of detainees, if required, in order to determine person(s) they could share a cell with. She stated that there may be reason for her to consider this issue in more detail in the future. Finally, she concluded that there was a lack of constitutional grounds for the use of new temporary detention facilities if the storage rooms do not meet the requirements set out in Section 2 of the Regulation (2014: 1108) on the design of detention facilities and police detention facilities.

In relation to other detention operations, during inspections, it was noted that there is still a lack of procedures to ensure compliance with the Police Authority's new regulations (PMFS 2015:7, FAP 102-1) on e.g. submission of information on the detainee's rights. Parliamentary Ombudsman Cecilia Renfors underlined that this is unacceptable and that measures must be taken immediately (ref. no. 6464-2017 and others).

A certain improvement has taken place in relation to procedures for supervision of detainees in police detention facilities. Experience from the past inspection period shows, however, that shortcomings remain and that there is still a need for the authority, in relation to its employees, to underline the importance of complying with the procedures. There are also grounds for the Parliamentary Ombudsmen to follow up on this issue.

Every detention facility must have access to a qualified medical practitioner and staff with adequate medical training. A detainee who needs healthcare must be examined by a doctor, and a doctor must be called at the request of a detainee where it is not obvious that such an examination is not required. Where needed, public healthcare must be hired. In around 70 Opcat inspections conducted in the Police Authority's detention facilities since 2011, various deficiencies have emerged in relation to management of detainee medication etc. Access to healthcare based on the needs of the detainees is important, and accordingly this issue will remain an important part in the preventive Opcat review of detention facilities.

Updated 11/22/2018