Swedish Ombudsmen Celebrate 200 Years

This year marks the 200 year anniversary of the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsmen (JO), an office which gives satisfaction to those who feel wrongfully treated by authorities. And the service is far from outdated - the complaints to JO increase every year – partly due to new technology.

The current Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman Mats Melin has held the post for the last five years and during that time he has witnessed the complaints grow from 5000 a year to almost 7000 a year.

“Swedes have become more prone to complain when we feel wrongfully treated. There is a growing and healthy lack of respect for authorities,” he told Swedish News Agency TT.

The authorities which most often feature in the complaints are the Police and the Social Insurance Agency (Försäkringskassan). The majority of these complaints are due to lengthy handling times.

Sometimes JO will act on its own accord and carry a case which has received attention in the media. The media also plays a large role in the amount of complaints JO receives from the public. In the case of the alleged conflict of interest in the Pirate Bay case JO received over 100 complaints from the public claiming that there was something wrong with the way the trial had been handled.

Lately JO has taken the step into the digital world. It is now possible for members of the public to send in their complaint through the homepage. This makes the complaint procedure simpler – something that Mats Melin thinks is both good and bad.

“If you just have to type a few sentences and press ‘send’ there is less time for reflection. If you are forced to stop, maybe to go out and buy a stamp, the anger might dissipate,” he told TT.

However, out of those 7000 complaints, about half are investigated and only about 1000 result in a reprimand from JO. The hardest cases to investigate for JO are those when the complaint is directed against an official– when it is word against word. But Mats Melin still thinks that a reprimand from JO is taken seriously by Swedish authorities. And thanks to new technology it is becoming easier for people to prove that they have been treated wrongfully.

“Nowadays people actually film the whole incident with their mobile phones. We had such a case recently which resulted in two traffic police officers being reprimanded,” Mats Melin told TT.

When the Swedish Parliamentary Ombudsman office was created in 1809 it was a unique Swedish invention – now a similar service exists in about 140 countries.