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Sweden could cut sentences for criminals who help police investigate accomplices

The Swedish government wants to offer reduced sentences for criminals in exchange for helping police investigate their accomplices, in a new bid to crack down on gang-related crimes.

Sweden could cut sentences for criminals who help police investigate accomplices
Swedish Justice Minister Morgan Johansson. Photo: Paul Wennerholm/TT

Presenting a law proposal allowing for so called “crown witnesses”, Justice Minister Morgan Johansson said this was intended to “break the culture of silence” associated with gang-related crime.

The system means that criminals can see their sentences reduced by helping in the investigation of others, so “that is pays off to collaborate with police”, Johansson told a press conference.

Currently, criminals can get reduced sentences by aiding in their own investigation but not by helping to catch others.

In addition, the law proposal contains tougher punishments for intimidating witnesses or obstructing investigations.

“Those who go after plaintiffs and witnesses are not just going after them but also the justice system as a whole,” Johansson said, adding that those types of attacks need to be treated “severely”.

Sweden has in recent years struggled to rein in rising shootings and bombings – usually settlings of scores by gangs and organised crime involved in drug trafficking.

In 2021, 346 shootings were recorded with 46 people dying as a result, according to police statistics in the country of 10.3 million inhabitants.

In October the killing of award-winning Swedish rapper Einar, whose music often referenced the criminal scene, sparked international headlines as the 19-year-old artist was shot several times outside an apartment building in Stockholm.

Friday’s proposal, which needs to be approved by Sweden’s parliament, was inspired by similar systems in neighbouring Norway and Denmark and is part of a 34-point programme announced by the government in 2019.

Johansson promised that more legal changes targeting gang crime would be presented throughout the year and leading up to the September elections.

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CRIME

Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 

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More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

 
The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.” 
 
 
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