Breaking the law on abuse investigations

4:18 min

A new report says the Swedish police and legal system are not doing enough to investigate violence and other abuse of children.

The local branch of Save the Children has released official figures that show Sweden is breaking its own rules on how long an investigation should take. The deadline is officially 90 days, but in 2010 the average was 115 days, almost an extra month too long.

Talking to experts it seems that violence, when inflicted on children, is much harder to investigate. Olof Risberg is a psychologist at the Swedish branch of Save the Children.

"Can you imagine trying to interview a five year old? It would take much longer than, for example, interviewing me."

Last year Swedish police received about 11,500 reports of violence against children.

If we look at the different parts of Sweden: the north, the south, the cities and the countryside, there is a split picture. Although the average for abuse investigations is 115 days, there are extremes well over, and well under this.

The two furthest extremes are in the same area - the southern county of Skåne. Its biggest city, Malmö, has the very longest times for abuse investigations - 168 days. But the smaller town of Helsingborg manages to complete its investigations in an average of just 66 days.

Christer Forsberg is at the Helsingborg prosecutors' office. He says to Radio Sweden that there are a few important factors that lead to a good investigation, including a proper overview of how an investigation can be done quickly, plus good cooperation with the police and putting a serious amount of resources and people on the case.

Looking at factors in general that lead to worse problems with abuse against children, Olof Risberg says family circumstances are important - if the family is in poverty, has adult members with drug or alcohol problems, or psychological issues, than it is more likely that abuse will occur.

In the short term Save the Children would like to see more resources put into protecting children. Olof Risberg says that the current government could immediately order more children's homes, look into how to improve the ones that exist, and also take a good hard lok at how to better improve investigations into abuse of children.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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