Sweden scraps controversial indefinite detentions for crime suspects

Indefinite detentions are coming to an end this summer after the Swedish parliament voted for time-limited detentions.

Sweden scraps controversial indefinite detentions for crime suspects
File photo of a remand cell in Östersund, Sweden. Photo: Per Danielsson/TT

Under the new rules young people between the ages of 15 and 18 should normally not be detained for more than three months while waiting for formal charges to be pressed in court. The time limit for adults will be nine months.

It will be possible to detain a suspect for longer if there are exceptional reasons.

There are currently no time limits, but strong reasons are required to detain a young person.

The bill was put forward by the centre-left government last year in order to meet the criticism that Sweden has received for decades, not least internationally, over its long periods of detention.

The right-wing opposition, including the Moderate party, Christian Democrats and the Sweden Democrats, voted against the introduction of cutoff points, referring to the fact that the Swedish Prosecution Authority was against time limits, with the motivation that this may complicate criminal investigations.

Sweden’s indefinite detations have long been criticised by human rights activists and came back into the international spotlight with the four-week detention of American rapper ASAP Rocky in 2019. The musician was eventually convicted of assault following a brawl in Stockholm, and he and two friends were handed suspended sentences.

Detentions of this kind aren’t that unusual in Sweden, and there’s no equivalent to the bail system that allows suspects to be released against a financial guarantee.

However, to remand a suspect, the court must believe there is “probable cause” to believe the suspect committed a crime that could result in imprisonment of at least one year.

They must also rule that there is a risk of the suspect fleeing, committing further crime, or harming the investigation, in order to keep them in custody. If these criteria are met and the suspect is remanded (häktad), the prosecutor has 14 days to bring the case to trial – but this can under the current rules be extended, in theory indefinitely, if the court approves an extension.

The new rules will come into force on July 1st.

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Why foreigners in Sweden are falling victim to fake police phone scams

Several English-speaking foreigners in Sweden have reported scam calls where victims are told they are wanted by the police.

Why foreigners in Sweden are falling victim to fake police phone scams

English-speaking foreigners, including several international students, have fallen for the scam, which starts with a phone call in which a computerised voice informs the victim that someone has been arrested and that they need to contact the police on a certain number. 

“We have received nearly 380 reports during February 2024, and in 25 of these cases the victim paid out money to the perpetrator,” Lotta Mauritzon, an expert at the National Fraud Centre, told The Local.

“The victims have different ages but most are in ages between the age of 21 and 40 years old. In several cases, they seem to be foreign students.” 

The recorded calls are in English, and come in two variants, she said, with callers claiming to be either from the Swedish police or from the international crime agency Interpol.  

There are two main scams used by fraudsters at the moment:

The ID theft scam

The perpetrator claims your ID has been stolen and that you are now accused of a crime like narcotic, weapon or other offences.

“In several cases they say that the narcotics were found in a vehicle that was rented out in your name, with your ID,” Mauritzon said.

She said the scammers tell you that “you have to secure your money and transfer it to an account in another bank”.

The ‘arrested in absentia’ scam

In this scam, the perpetrator claims you have been arrested in absentia and been accused of different crimes. Pending the trial, the victim has to secure his or her money. 

In two different reports, the precorded computerised message was as follows: 

“This is from the Swedish Police. You are arrested in your absence. If you want to speak to a police superintendent, press one.”

What is the Swedish Police doing about the scams (aside from contacting The Local)? 

Sweden’s National Police have set up an English language website to try to prevent additional foreigners falling victim to the crime, and have also created a poster in English

“Right now, fraudsters are calling with automated computerised voices,” the website reads. “They can say that there is a warrant for your arrest and that you are wanted. The police will never contact you with an automated voice in English. Hang up and don’t trust the caller.” 

“The fraudster may call and request personal data or ask you to identify yourself with your bank eID, or share codes from a bank token or bank card,” the poster warns. 

Do not do this. Police will never ask you to perform a BankID identification. 

If you suspect you may have fallen for one of these phone scams, you should immediately contact your bank to freeze your accounts, and then you ring 114 14 to make a police report.