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.
In connection with a main hearing at a district court, at which two members of a motorcycle club were defendants, other members of the club came to the court. The police removed one club member who was disturbing the general order in the court building. When the club members protested against the removal of this person outside the court, the police decided to conduct body searches of them. The decision to conduct body searches was based on, among other things, the fact that the police had previously found dangerous objects on members of the club, but also due to the way the club members acted at the court. When the defendants’ public defence counsel filmed the intervention, two police officers obstructed his filming by standing in his way. One of the police officers held up her mobile phone as though she were filming him. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen states that the police’s experiences of finding dangerous objects combined with a person’s actions against the police and the context in which this happens may form the basis of an assumption that he or she has prepared for a confrontation with the police and that weapons or other dangerous objects should therefore be seized by means of a body search. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen confirms, however, that the investigation does not support the fact that the people who were subjected to body searches outside the district court were acting in such a way that grounds existed, combined with the police’s previous experiences, for the decision to conduct body searches. The Police Authority is criticised for conducting body searches without adequate grounds. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen also issues statements about the police’s treatment of the person filming the intervention and the importance of the police acting in a correct and professional manner.
On 20 September 2016, the Social Welfare Board decided to take AA’s two children into immediate care with the support of Section 6 of the Care of Young People Act. The decision was executed the following day and the children were placed in a family home. The board also decided to keep the address of the family home hidden from the guardians. The Administrative Court then confirmed the decisions on the care of the children. The Social Welfare Board then applied to the Administrative Court for the children to be placed in care pursuant to the Care of Young People Act. The Administrative Court held an oral hearing in the case on 21 October 2016. It was stated at the hearing that the judgement in the case would be announced on 15 November 2016. After consultation on Friday 21 October 2016, the Administrative Court decided on the same date to annul the immediate care of the children. The decision was valid immediately. On 15 November 2016, the Administrative Court announced its judgement in the case and rejected the Social Welfare Board’s applications for care. The Administrative Court faxed the decision to annul the immediate care of the children to the Social Welfare Board the same day as it was announced, and the board also received the decision on that date. Despite this, the board took no action in connection with the decision until Monday 24 October 2016. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen states that following the Administrative Court’s decision, it was incumbent on the Social Welfare Board to act immediately to make sure that the children were reunited with their parents. The fact that the Administrative Court had announced the decision late on a Friday after office hours does not change this. The Social Welfare Board’s failure to act resulted in the children remaining in care in the family home for just over two days despite the fact that there was no legal support for this. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen directs serious criticism towards the Social Welfare Board’s failure to act when the Administrative Court had annulled the immediate care of the children. Furthermore, the Social Welfare Board cannot avoid criticism for the fact that a discussion about confidential information was conducted with the parents in a way that enabled unauthorised persons to hear what was being said.
A criminal case that started in January 2015 was not settled until March 2018. The district court is criticised for its slow, passive processing of the case and for deficiencies in the service of notice to the defendant. Two of the district court’s judges are also criticised for not having documented deliberations about fines, collection and detention as the court should do pursuant to Chapter 46, Section 15 of the Code of Judicial Procedure, when the defendant does not attend a main hearing.
This case involves the question of whether the Prison and Probation Service has the right to restrict the number of cigarettes that a detainee in an institution is permitted to possess in connection with an exercise period, and if so how extensive such a restriction may be. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen states that it is extremely important that cigarettes are not smuggled into the units after the end of the exercise period, partly to maintain the ban on smoking indoors and partly to guarantee safety in the institution. Detainees sometimes attempt to light smuggled cigarettes in different ways, which involve a risk of fire to varying degrees. To deal with these problems, different locations have been allowed to resolve the matter in different ways. In the case in question, Gävle institution has decided to limit the number of cigarettes to two per detainee per exercise period. In the view of the Parliamentary Ombudsmen there is nothing in the current regulations to prevent an institution from introducing restrictions on the permitted number of cigarettes, either in their local procedures or through a special decision based on incidents that have occurred, on the condition that the restriction is necessary for reasons of safety. It is, however, necessary to then observe the principle of proportionality as expressed in the Act on Imprisonment, which means that there must be a balancing of interests in order to test whether the inconveniences of the measure are in reasonable proportion to what can be gained through it. If a less intrusive measure is sufficient, that must be used. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen confirms that the restriction imposed by Gävle institution is far-reaching, but does not have sufficient background information to maintain that it is disproportionate. In conclusion, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen emphasises the importance of similar cases being treated equally in the Prison and Probation Service and of proportionality actually being observed in its operations. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen expects that the Prison and Probation Service reviews the various methods being used by the institutions to prevent the smuggling of cigarettes into the units and to consider the possibilities of achieving a more unified approach to the problem.
In spring 2015, a Social Welfare Board was informed on several occasions by a woman’s landlord that the women had been served notice to leave her home because of unpaid rent. The family unit in the municipality then contacted the board as they had been unable to make contact with the woman. In connection to this, the board made certain attempts to contact the woman. In October 2015, the family unit once more made contact with the board as they had still been unable to make contact with the woman. In December 2015, the board received information that the woman was to be evicted from her home on 13 January 2016. This did not result in any action from the board other than the fact that on 15 January 2015 the board made contact with the Enforcement Authority. The board was then informed that the eviction had been executed. On the night of 21 January 2016, the woman, with the help of the police, made contact with the social support service and was given assistance in the form of accommodation for one night in a hotel. She was also informed that she could apply for additional help the next day. However, the woman did not return, nor did the board take any further action. The woman then spent almost one year homeless. In the decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen states that the board had information about the woman’s problems and that the board had been given clear indications that she was in need of support and help. Despite this, the board took no actions to investigate the woman’s situation and the help she needed. In the decision, the board is criticised for not initiating an investigation pursuant to Chapter 11, Section 1 of the Social Services Act.
The Parliamentary Ombudsmen have previously criticised the Enforcement Authority on several occasions for having paid money to the wrong person. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen now confirms that this has happened once more. The authority deserves severe criticism this time for having a) paid money to the debtor instead of the creditor, b) taken more than five months to pay the money to the creditor after the authority had discovered the error, and c) been inadequate in its treatment of the creditor.
A public prosecutor at the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency processed cases and represented the authority in cases relating to hydro power. The complainant, who is chair of a hydro power association, considered that the public prosecutor had a conflict of interest as he had been associated with organisations that have conflicting interests to hydro power associations and has appeared together with such organisations at seminars. The investigation revealed, among other things, that the public prosecutor is a member of the interest association Älvräddarna [Saviours of the Rivers] and that he, in his capacity as an official, has made statements on legal aspects relating to hydro power in a film produced by the association together with other actors. The issues in this case relate partly to whether the public prosecutor’s involvement in the association and participation in the film could be the kind of secondary occupation that endangers damaging credibility, which the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency should have taken action against, and partly to whether the public prosecutor may be considered to have a conflict of interest when processing hydro power cases, in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act’s provision on impartiality. In consideration of a secondary occupation that damages credibility, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen confirms that the activities of Älvräddarna overlaps with the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency’s activities relating to water-related activities. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen does not, however, state that the public prosecutor has, apart from his membership, any deeper involvement in the association or has participated in the film in a way that serves to question his impartiality as a government official. There is therefore no reason to criticise the Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency for its failure to take action against the public prosecutor’s involvement in the association. On the matter of a conflict of interest, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen states that the public prosecutor’s membership of Älvräddarna is not enough reason to deem the matter a case of impartiality, even though the involvement in the association, etc. has given rise to doubts about his impartiality, by concerned power plant owners. Nor does the Parliamentary Ombudsmen find that the investigation lends any support to there being any other circumstance that causes the public prosecutor to have a conflict of interests in hydro power matters. In conclusion, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen emphasises, on a general note, the importance of authorities being at pains to preserve the trust of the general public in their organisation and to be aware of any circumstances that might involve any risk of their impartiality being questioned. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen issues a reminder of the responsibility that rests on an authority's management and the responsibility that accompanies the role of a public sector employee.
The city district board of Hässelby-Vällingby rejected a woman’s appeal against an aid decision as it arrived too late. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen states that a decision to reject an appeal against an aid decision because the appeal has arrived too late requires that the authority had knowledge of when the individual was informed of the decision. In the case in question, the board had not used proof of service when it notified the woman of the rejection decision, and the investigation did not support the board having been made aware in any other way of when the woman received the decision. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, the board therefore lacked the necessary background information for adopting a position that the appeal had been received too late. The board is criticised for its handling of the matter. A party must be informed about how he or she may appeal an aid decision. There is no requirement that a reference to the appeal procedure must be included in the actual decision. The Parliamentary Ombudsmen has, however, stated that this should always be attached to a decision. According to the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, it is also appropriate that the authority state, in a rejection decision, that a reference to the appeal procedure has been attached to the decision. The purpose of this is to clarify the opportunity to appeal for the individual. In their decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen also make certain statements about an authority’s obligation to monitor an official’s email inbox while he or she is absent.
A summary of the Annual Report for the fiscal year 2017/18 is now available for download on the web site.
The Parliamentary Ombudsmen's overall statements for each supervisory area the year 2017/18.
The Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsmen - JOBox 16327 • SE-103 26 Stockholm • SwedenVisiting Address: Västra Trädgårdsgatan 4 AOpening hours: 9.00–11.30, 13.00–15.00