Ensuring that the Police receive the right resources is the biggest challenge
Ulrika Rogland, Lawyer
The Swedish National Courts Administration, which includes prosecutors, judges and other lawyers, is limited in its ability to address cases concerning the dissemination of child sexual abuse material, as courts can only hand down sentences based on the evidence produced by the Police. This puts a lot of weight on the skills and work of the Police who investigate the crime, view and evaluate the material that has been found, and choose a selection of material to be presented to the court.
“It is the Police that are struggling to find sufficient resources and build an organisational structure that suits the crime.”
The conditions are right for the court system
In my opinion the Courts Administration is well set up to deal with cases involving child sexual abuse material. It is the Police that are struggling to find sufficient resources and build an organisational structure that suits the crime. Currently they do not have time to prioritise these investigations and they do not have the time to conduct all the technical investigative work that is required, which means that limitation period for cases has frequently expired before they can be brought in front of a court.
Education and specially trained judges
The Swedish court system could be improved by further education about child sexual abuse crimes, and with the introduction of judges who are specially trained to deal with these types of cases. There is a general lack of understanding and knowledge around sexual abuse aimed at children, and there have been few convictions involving child complainants as the courts are not equipped to base their verdicts on evidence given by children.
In Sweden there is a debate regarding increasing sentences for viewing and downloading child sexual abuse material. Although I do not believe this will deter the perpetrators, harsher sentences will highlight the severity of these crimes. Likewise, the discussion to move cases with child sexual abuse material into a different code of criminal procedure would mean that it would cease being a crime solely against the public order, and become a sexual crime with a victim. This would signal the grave importance of these crimes. However, I feel that too much hope is placed on the potential effectiveness of that change, I don’t believe that it will have a big effect on the crime itself.
Lack of resources
However you choose to view the work around solving child sexual abuse crimes, the issue always comes back to the fact that the Police lack resources. The scarcity of resources is all the more obvious because more cases need specialist technical investigations. It is not until the Police are better funded that we will be able to understand how the courts can be further improved. The consequence would most likely be that the number of prosecutors and other court resources would have to be increased, however, on this we can only speculate at this stage.
Ulrika Rogland is a lawyer who specialises in crimes against children, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and honour violence. She has previously worked as a judge, prosecutor, counsel for the complainants and as a special representative. She has been involved in several high profile cases in Sweden and is greatly involved in the debate around increasing the court system’s awareness of crimes against children, sexual violence and domestic violence.