Swedish judicial system looks amateurish as recusal of lay judges is sought again

The Swedish judicial system is looking increasingly amateurish. The criminal Södertälje network – found guilty in Sweden’s most expensive trial – first succeeded in getting a retrial by claiming that one of the lay judges had a conflict of interest and should have been recused and is now delaying the retrial by fresh claims of bias against the new lay judges and even against the judge who approved their appointment to the trial bench!

After one of Sweden’s most expensive trials and criminal investigations ever, 16 of 20 defendants received prison sentences, two were ordered into juvenile detention, and two were found not guilty. They were accused of crimes including murder, kidnapping and extortion.

Sverigesradio 5th October: 

The most costly court case in Swedish legal history which has been called Sweden’s biggest criminal gang case, and lasted six months at a cost of more than SEK 200 million, is to be retried. The Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that one of the lay judges from the trial had a conflict of interest.  

“We have found that a lay judge on the court, who was also a member of the Police Board in Södertälje, had a conflict of interest in the issue and is therefore disqualified,” says Court of Appeals judge Sven Jönsson.

Sverigesradio 31st October:

All witnesses in a high-profile murder case in Södertälje must testify again when the case gets retried in the district court next week, according to a decision Wednesday.

The murder case – involving the so-called “Södertälje Network” – is the most expensive in Swedish legal history. A retrial was ordered after a lay judge was found to have a conflict of interest, having sat on the police board.

The new trial started again today in a farcical manner as the new lay judges were again accused by the defence lawyers for having conflicts of interest. It did not help matters that the professional chairman of the judges seemed completely unprepared to handle arguments about conflicts of interest (Svenska Dagbladet). To make matters worse, the two professional judges were unable to make a ruling about the conflicts of interest of the lay members because they were themselves accused of having conflicts of interest because – wait for it – they had approved the appointment of the lay judges accused of bias to the bench!!

Svenska Dagbladet:

Even two of the new lay judges should be recused for bias, claimed lawyers. Instead of a trial a confused discussion about conflicts of interest arose.

An already frustrated crowd of defendants, lawyers, prosecutors and paralegals on Thursday saw the case being delayed again in an almost farcical form.

 Jan Karlsson, lawyer for one of the defendants submitted late on Wednesday a motion for recusal for bias. He claimed that two of the new lay judges could also be biased because they had participated, in a meeting  of the Association of Lay Judges where the head of the police operation talked about organized  crime. ….

When the motion was taken up in a courtroom packed with close to a hundred people the two professional judges, Lars Lindhe and Jan-Erik Oja, were to take a decision regarding the conflict of interest. But then it came to a stop again. The lawyers now claimed that the judges could not take such a decision because they were themselves disqualified.

It does look as if the Södertällje criminal network and their lawyers are having a field day in exploiting the weaknesses of the Swedish judicial system. Certainly the judiciary – and by inference even the prosecution –   are looking decidedly amateurish.

The Swedish system of using lay judges, who are often local politicians, has been getting some very bad press lately for incompetence and the entire handling of this case does not impress.

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