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Sweden's Lay Judges: Their Criminal Records (4)
Yet another scandal in the duckpond. Unexpected journalism by Aftonbladet. Part four.
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.
Aftonbladet's op-ed for the series is written by Eva Franchell.
Politicians Who Defy the Law
By Eva Franchell. 20 February 2012.
Our political parties need to take the Swedish judicial system seriously.
Individuals convicted of serious crimes should not be appointed as lay judges to the Swedish courts. It is not acceptable that someone convicted of aggravated drink driving should sit in judgement of someone else suspected of the same crime.
The mere suspicion that organised crime - totally uncontrolled - can sneak into the Swedish court system: it's terrifying.
The citizenry can lose confidence in the Swedish courts and the entire Swedish judicial system.
Today we at Aftonbladet could reveal that more than 200 lay judges are currently under police investigation. 25 convicted lay judges have been sitting in Swedish courts for years. No one admits to knowing of their crimes. Only after Aftonbladet published the details have some of them been dismissed or chosen to resign.
According to the Sweden's national court administration, they're supposed to 'set an exceptionally good example in terms of general obedience before the law'. It should be obvious that the political parties may only appoint suitable representatives to the courts. But criticism of the Swedish lay judge system has only increased.
Almost half of the over 8,000 Swedish lay judges are pensioners - they're retired. A majority of our real judges state that these lay judges are quite simply too old. And now we learn that a lot of them are convicted criminals. Sorry to offend the system in general, but have our Swedish courts become a compost heap for our Swedish political parties?
But lay judges aren't your ordinary audience. They're supposed to render verdicts together with trained 'real' judges. They have a strong position, their votes count as much as those of the real judges, and no one is allowed insight into what they do. The idea was that the lay judges would guarantee that verdicts were in accordance with common perceptions of justice.
But an idea like that depends on lay judges having a clue when it comes to law.
We the people
Our political parties need to take the Swedish judicial system seriously. Lay judges are supposed to represent our entire nation - our old, our young, our women, our men, our Swedes, our immigrants. They do not need to be politically active - but they need to be good representatives of the Swedish people.
Sweden can't be a society where judicial technicalities decide someone's fate. The participation of the citizenry in the judicial system is crucial - it must be upgraded to an important, well paid, and responsible assignment.
Anyone in Sweden ever hear of trial by jury?
One: Background | Two: The Splash | Three: The Crimes | Four: Politicians Who Defy the Law
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