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Low priority

Government criticized over hate crimes

Publicerat måndag 18 april 2011 kl 11.20
Photo: Maja Suslin/Scanpix

The Swedish government has been criticized for placing less focus on all types of hate crimes.

Now Justice Minister Beatrice Ask is responding to the critics, reports Swedish Radio News. She says practical results have replaced empty phrases in the center-right government's work against hate crimes.

Hate crimes had been treated as a priority area in the government's instructions to police and prosecutors for ten years before they were stricken out during the current government's last mandate period.

Ulf Holm, Green Party MP and party secretary, says the government should reconsider that decision.

"You can interpret it as if the government doesn't think that it's important, or that the government has some other information that the situation is less problematic," Holm told Swedish Radio News. "I don't see any reason why the government shouldn't consider this a priority."

Hate crime was made a priority in Sweden first in 1996 when the then Swedish government sent a letter to police and prosecutors ordering them to focus on hate crime. And that is how the situation stood until 2007.

But in 2008, the hate crime issue was lifted from the government's letter. Since then there has been steady criticism against the current government.

Last winter Ulf Holm together with some other members of the Green party said they wanted once again to make hate crimes a priority. But without result.

Justice Minister Beatrice Ask has told Swedish Radio News that too many crimes were made a priority before.

"It was like shooting with a shot gun, and nothing was prioritized," she said. "So we changed that. But we have increased our hands-on work against hate crimes."

But Görel Granström, associate professor in law in Umeå and hate crime expert, told Swedish Radio News the only way it can be interpreted is that hate crime is less of a priority. He said police and prosecutors will focus on other areas if they do not get specific guidelines to focus on hate crimes.

The number of reported cases of hate crimes in Sweden is at a steady level. Last year, the National Council for Crime Prevention identified roughly 5,800 crimes with hate as a motive. And all agree that these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.

Facts:

  • A crime is considered a hate crime in Sweden when the motive for the crime is the victim’s ethnic background, skin colour, nationality, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or gender.
  • A hate crime should receive a harsher punishment according to a law from 1994.
  • Many hate crimes are never reported to police according to a recent survey.
  • The most common type of hate crime reported to police is harassment and assault (43%) and violent crime (21%).
  • A majority of those who are suspected of hate crime have not been convicted previously.
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