Criminals go underground to avoid prison

Over 40 criminals have avoided prison sentences this year by hiding until their crimes became statute-barred.

Most crimes are statute-barred after a few years if the police cannot find the culprit, but convicted criminals can also avoid punishments if the police do not manage to bring them to prison within a certain number of years after they receive their guilty verdict.

Up until June this year there were around 40 such cases, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården) registers show - and the problem with hiding criminals has grown since the start of the last decade.

"It's unfortunate that this happens. We do what we can. We try in every way possible to find these people," Johan Sone of the National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalpolisen) told Swedish Radio News.

Those who avoid prison sentences by hiding have often been released after their prosecution while the police wait for a free space to become available in the prison system. The criminals then disappear before the police come to take them in.

They have generally committed milder crimes and receive short prison sentences which are written off after five years, during which time they manage to stay underground.

"Of course we prioritise individuals who are wanted for severe crimes. The statute of limitation is significantly lower for financial crimes, mild forms of assault, unlawful threats and so on," Sone said.

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