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Sweden's Lay Judges: Their Criminal Records (3)
Yet another scandal in the duckpond. Unexpected journalism by Aftonbladet. Part three.
DUCKPOND (Rixstep) — Sweden's bizarre 'Big Brother' system of lay judges has already sparked quite the controversy. The very idea that trial by jury does not even exist, that people are politically appointed to sit in judgement on court cases and yet have no formal training in the law - where 63% of them can't answer basic questions accurately, where statistically half of them think it's OK to use their political views to influence verdicts, where a shocking number think it's OK to convict without a shred of evidence, and where none of them seemingly even understand what 'evidence' is - most people would say it's already bad enough.
But it gets worse. As journalists at Sweden's tabloid Aftonbladet discovered, many of these lay judges, sitting in judgement on members of the Swedish citizenry, have criminal records of their own.
And what's worse still: the Swedish judicial system lacks a mechanism for checking such things.
And what's worse still: many of the 'real' judges questioned by Aftonbladet say they don't even care.
Following are some of the crimes Sweden's lay judges have been convicted of.
- Accounting offences
- Aggravated accounting offences
- Aggravated drink driving
- Commercial market manipulation
- Disturbing the peace
- Drink driving
- Drug dealing
- Drug offences
- Hunting violations
- Tax evasion
- Unlawful deprivation of liberty
- Unlawful threats
- Violence towards policeman
- Voter fraud
- Weapons violations
There have been four convictions for drink driving, three convictions for aggravated drink driving, three convictions for theft, and two convictions for unlawful threats - all by lay judges who sit in judgement of others.
Some of the criminal lay judges Aftonbladet were able to expose. All of these judges are obstinately clinging to their positions, refuse to resign - and in most cases their 'real' judge bosses state they don't even care.
Welcome to Sweden. Leave as fast as you can.
- Saied Tagavi. 66 years of age. Social democrat. Solna district court. Crime: voter fraud. Conviction: 2004.
First resigned but then decided to come back. 'I don't know anything about his background', says his boss Mari Heidenborg. 'But I wouldn't done anything even if I'd known.' Tagavi himself says: 'It's been so many years. Surely I deserve a second chance?'
- Bo Eriksson. 66 years of age. Social democrat. Nyköping district court. Crime: drink driving. Conviction: 2009.
'But I had no idea!' says his boss Magnus Widebeck. 'And as he only got a fine, I'll not do anything about it.'
'A series of unfortunate circumstances were behind that', says Eriksson himself. 'And I'm deeply regretful today. But I don't think my criminal record impacts on my position as a lay judge.'
- Bo Boman. 66 years of age. Conservative. Härnosand admin court. Crime: unlawful threats. Conviction: 2010.
Boman threatened a student in a school. Boman's boss Ylva Johansson says: 'I had no idea'. Boman says himself:
'I've been working as a teacher for 45 years and nothing's ever happened. In this particular case I spoke to a student who hit a classmate with a heavy object. My lawyer said I could have appealed and won but I saw no reason to do so.'
- Mohammad Alkazhami. 50 years of age. Social democrat. Falun district court. Crime: tax evasion. Conviction: 2001.
Alkazhami ran a camping site back in 2001 and cooked the books for a significant amount of money.
Alkazhami's boss Lars-Erik Bergström says: 'I had no idea. But that's long ago now and I don't think it's important. He's a good judge.'
'My memory about that incident is hazy', says Alkazhami. 'It was word against word. The conviction hasn't impacted my performance as a lay judge.'
- Antoine Haddad. 53 years of age. Uppsala admin court. Crime: illegal spirits sales. Conviction: 2004.
Haddad ran a video store back then and sold alcohol to minors 'under the counter'. Representatives for the court deny knowing about the conviction and state they will do nothing about the matter. Haddad admits he often sits in judgement on cases not unlike his own. 'Convicted lay judges should be allowed to keep their positions', says Haddad. 'But repeat offenders are another matter of course.'
- Leif Palmgren. 71 years of age. Social democrat. Crime: drink driving. Conviction: 2009.
Stopped by the police in Stockholm. His court of course had 'no idea' about his conviction. Administrative assessor Marcus Isgren says: 'the court will usually decide whether to dismiss a lay judge once the legal procedure is complete'. But no one at the court even knew about it. What does Palmgren himself have to say? 'No comment.'
- Majid Safaee. 58 years of age. Conservative. Ångermanland district court. Crime: aggravated drink driving. Conviction: 2010.
Statment from the Ångermanland district court:'But he only began his position as a lay judge in 2011!'
- Gary Dybeck. 73 years of age. Conservative. Karlstad admin court. Crime: commercial market manipulation. Conviction: 2011.
Found manipulating corporate stock to influence the stock market. Fined only. Barred from sitting on tax cases.
Says Dybeck: 'I didn't appeal because I didn't think it was worth it, what with the way they regard things like that in Stockholm'.
- Agneta Norberg. 75 years of age. Leftist. Södertörn district court. Crime: disturbing the peace. Conviction: 2005.
Created a disturbance in the parliament when protesting against war. Norberg's boss Alf Andersson says he's not the one appointing the lay judges, so it's not his concern. Says Norberg: 'I don't think I committed a crime. I was suspended for a year. And my party chose me again as a lay judge the next time around'.
- Keya Izol. 58 years of age. Leftist. Stockholm admin court. Crime: drink driving. Conviction: 2002.
Stopped by police whilst in central Stockholm with a high level of alcohol.
Noteworthy is that none of the above were sent to prison despite several of the cited crimes commonly conferring a prison sentence in similar circumstances. Which of course leads one to wonder how much their own courts 'didn't know' about their cases.
Noteworthy as well is the advanced age of most of these 'judges': the youngest is 50 and there are three over 70. Are they able to understand modern contingencies such as file sharing, whistle-blowing, and current sexual mores and activities?
Aftonbladet also cite a number of lay judges who'd already decided to pack it in.
|Man||65||Sweden democrat||Gothenburg||Violence towards policeman||2011|
|Man||64||Laholm party||Halmstad||Weapons offences||2011|
|Woman||64||Liberal||Kalmar||Aggravated drink driving||2011|
|Man||54||Conservative||Solna||Unlawful threats, unlawful deprivation of liberty, duress, trespassing||(Unknown)|
|Man||56||Huddinge party||Huddinge||Drug offences||2011|
|Man||53||Social democrat||Vänersborg||Drink driving||2009|
|Woman||58||Social democrat||Örnsköldsvik||Aggravated drink driving||2012|
A number of additional cases have recently been processed or are under review because of the Aftonbladet report.
One: Background | Two: The Splash | Three: The Crimes | Four: Politicians Who Defy the Law
√ Lay judge Leif Fast of the Hudiksvall district court was convicted in 2010 on four counts of tax fraud. He resigned.
√ Social democrat lay judge Nigisti Tekle of the Stockholm administrative court was given a suspended sentence and fine for pickpocketing a woman in a tobacconist's in 2011. 'I denied the charges but they convicted me anyway!' says Tekle. (Tekle was namely caught in the act on CCTV.) 'It was a terrible experience! But I don't think it would affect my performance as a lay judge. I am a good person and I take my court assignments seriously!' But the court didn't agree. They dismissed Tekle.
√ Conservative lay judge Wladimir Tsagalidis of the Stockholm administrative court was convicted of shoplifting in 2006. Tsagalidis was dismissed by the court. Tsagalidis has refused to comment to Aftonbladet.
Cases currently under investigation include the following.
√ A man 50 years of age, member of the conservative party and lay judge at the Attunda district court. Currently under investigation. Suspected of aggravated accounting fraud and obstruction of tax auditing in 2011. Currently allowed to remain at the court. 'We won't take action until we hear the verdict', says his boss Gunilla Bergman. The man in question couldn't be reached for a comment.
√ A man 55 years of age, member of the conservative party in Jönköping, under investigation for fraud.
√ A man 54 years of age, member of the Left party in Stockholm, under investigation for assault.