Is there an exclusionary rule in Sweden?

Date:January 11, 2004 / year-entry #12
Orig Link:
Comments:    18
Summary:According to Friday's Klartext (note: link valid only for one week, then it gets overwritten by the next Friday's Klartext), Vi ska börjar klartext med berätta att en åklagare nu ska undersöka om fler än två hundra poliser i Sverige har brutit mot lagen. Poliserna letade rätt på information om mordet på politikern Anna Lindh...

According to Friday's Klartext (note: link valid only for one week, then it gets overwritten by the next Friday's Klartext),

Vi ska börjar klartext med berätta att en åklagare nu ska undersöka om fler än två hundra poliser i Sverige har brutit mot lagen. Poliserna letade rätt på information om mordet på politikern Anna Lindh med hjälp av dator. Trots att det är förbjudet. Poliserna var nu fikna(?) och ville veta mer om den man som är erkänt att han dödade Anna Lindh. En del av poliserna ville ochså veta mer om den man som poliserna först tog fast men sedan släppte.

Om en domstol säger att poliserna är skyldiga till att ha läst hemliga saker i sin dator kan de få betalar pengar i bötar som straff. Det kan ochså bli så att poliserna bli tvunga att sluta sina jobb.

My bad translation (based on a bad transcription no less!):

We will begin Klartext with the report that a prosecutor is now investigating whether more than two hundred police officers in Sweden have broken the law. The officers were trying to find information on the murder of politician Anna Lindh with the help of computers. But that is forbidden. The officers were now (?unknown word?) and wanted to know more about the man who is recognized as having killed Anna Lindh. A segment of the officers also wanted to know more about the man whom police first captured but later released.

If a court determines that the police are guilty of having read private files in their computer, they can be penalized by a monetary fine. The officers may also be forced to resign.

At first I thought I was completely misreading the story since I couldn't find confirmation of it anywhere, but it finally showed up on Dagens Nyheter.

First question is one of possible misunderstanding: Whose computers did the police read secret files from? Their own (sin)? Why can't the police read their own files?

Second question: If in fact the evidence was obtained illegally, does this benefit the defendant in any way? In the United States, evidence gained illegally is inadmissable in court. This is known as The Exclusionary Rule. This rule is rather controversial and exceptions have been granted in special circumstances.

Comments (18)
  1. Niclas says:

    The unknown word you are looking for is "nyfikna" not "nu fikna".

    I’ll let you find out the meaning of that word if you don’t know it already! :-)

  2. Timwi says:

    Poliserna var nu fikna(?)

    Could this be "Poliserna var nyfikna" = "The officers were curious"?

  3. Timwi says:

    Sorry for giving it away, Niclas :)

  4. gohai says:

    I read about this in German (I am Austrian) and IIRC these police officers accessed information of the Lindh case without being part of the actual investigation team. Some of them are supposed to have leaked information to the press.

    There was a similar case in Austria when some statistic revealed that the files of prominent politicians are looked into incredibly often by policemen, just of plain interrest.

  5. Stefan says:

    Gohai is right. This will not affect the case against the suspected killer.

    The question about the police officers is one about personal privacy. It is illegal for police officers (and other government employees) to retrieve private information about swedish citizens if it is not part of their work (a nurse for example is not allowed to look up her friends’ medical records). These police officers had accessed information they were not supposed to access.

  6. Raymond Chen says:

    Okay, thanks for the help everybody. I thought the offending officers were part of the investigation. "Nyfikna" was the key word here — too bad it was the only one I missed!

  7. Mike Walsh (Helsinki) says:

    It’s also också not ochså !

  8. Raymond Chen says:

    Okay and I can’t spell either. I often misspell "ett" as "et". Need to pay more attention.

  9. Simon says:

    I’m still impressed by how fast you’ve learned our language. The grammar must be pure hell.

  10. Raymond Chen says:

    Actually the grammar is a blast! (It’s the vocabulary that’s a killer. But it always is.)

    I’m particularly impressed with the mathematical ability to use "att göra någonting" seemingly anywhere a noun is valid. Where Swedish lets you say "Poliserna är skyldiga till att ha läst hemliga saker" (lit: "The officers are guilty of to have read private items"), German requires a placeholder pronoun: "Die Polizisten werden ihm für schuldig befunden, heimliche Sachen lesen zu haben" (lit: "The officers are guilty of it, to have read private items"), and English gives up entirely and requires a reformulation: "The officers are guilty of having read private items."

    Back to the title question: Is illegally-obtained evidence admissible in Sweden?

  11. Illegally-obtained evidence is pretty unheard of in Sweden. The Swedish police is either very good at covering up how they got the evidece, or it seldom occurs. Anyway, I very much doubt that illegally-obtained evidens is admissible. The guy they cought for the murder was procecuted this morning, based on all the (legally found) evidence they got. Lots of DNA and stuff :) The police sure worked better on this case than they did on the Olof Pamle murder…

  12. Frank says:

    I’m no Swede, but shouldn’t it be "Vi ska börja" instead of "börjar"?

  13. Henk Devos says:

    I can answer this question for Belgium.

    Here, illegally obtained evidence can never be used, and there will never be any exceptions made.

    This means that investigations have to be done very carefully.

    The defense will always try to show that evidence has been obtained illegally, even if this is questionable.

    There have been some prominent cases here.

    One of them was related to the murder of Van Noppen, a veterinary who was fighting the hormone mafia.

    I don’t remember the details exactly, but it was something like this:

    One of the suspects (i think it was the one named Deschutter, which means the shooter) was interrogated in France as a witness and confessed.

    Since he had been interrogated as a witness, and not as a suspect, they could not use the confession.

    In general, privacy laws in Europe are much more strict than in US. So when you search a house, tap a phone, and so on without a warrant, this is taken very seriously.

    I am pretty much convinced that things are the same or even more strict in Sweden.

  14. You’re right Frank. It should be "Vi ska börja". A verb in Swedish is always in its basic form (infinitiv) when following another (help-) verb (such as "ska", "kan", "vill", etc).

  15. Florian says:

    I hope you don’t too much if I correct that German version a little:

    "Die Polizisten werden für schuldig befunden, geheime Sachen gelesen zu haben" which would be (very) literally: "The officers are for guilty found, secret items read to have" or less strict "The officers are found guilty, to have read secret items". You can get closer to the English version with "Die Polizisten sind schuldig, private Sachen gelesen zu haben".

    Note that while literally translating the words renders "read to have", "having read" comes closer since the use of "zu haben", i.e. "to have" is not as in "to have or not to have", even if it looks the same.

  16. Raymond Chen says:

    Frank/Andreas: Yup, I messed up on börja. I know the basic rule for when to use the finite and when to use the infinitive form, but I still have trouble internalizing it. And I still have to look up which verbs are helping verbs and which are plain ("försöker göra" but "planerar att göra").

    Florian: I definitely had qualms about my German version. I got it mixed up with constructions like "Ich dachte daran, dass…" ("I was thinking of it, that…"), using "it" here as a placeholder for the clause that follows.

    The difference I was trying (and failing) to highlight is that Swedish lets you stick the infinitive directly where the noun would go. German requires you to take the infinitive phrase out of the flow of the sentence. I remember in my German classes I kept trying to insert the infinitive into the middle of the sentence rather than pulling it to the side. "Wir fangen zu arbeiten an" instead of "Wir fangen an zu arbeiten".

  17. Timwi says:

    Florian: "Die Polizisten werden für schuldig befunden, geheime Sachen gelesen zu haben"

    Raymond: "German requires you to take the infinitive phrase out of the flow of the sentence."

    Not if you make the infinitive into a noun:

    "Die Polizisten werden wegen/aufgrund des Lesens geheimer Sachen für schuldig befunden." (The policement were found guilty because of their reading secret things.)

    "Die Polizisten wurden für schuldig des Lesens geheimer Sachen befunden." (The policemen were found guilty of having read secret things.)

    But that sounds really dodgy, and Florian’s version is still much better :-)

  18. aSwede says:

    I don’t know if there is an "Exclusionary Rule" here in Sweden (probably is though).

    What have been debated (except for the curious cops) are the way the police identified the suspect. The ran a DNA search against a national bank and came up with a name. Apperently they did not have a permit to do so.

    Since this really hasn’t anything to do with the evidence per se, the discussion was pretty shortlived.

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