Sweden - Judicial system





Ordinary criminal and civil cases are tried in a local court (tingsrätt), consisting of a judge and a panel of lay assessors appointed by the municipal council. Above these local courts are six courts of appeal (hovrätter). The highest tribunal is the Supreme Court (Högsta Domstolen), made up of at least 16 justices. Special cases are heard by the Supreme Administrative Court and other courts. The Swedish judicial procedure uses a jury of the Anglo-US type only in press libel suits. Capital punishment, last employed in 1910, is expressly forbidden by the constitution.

The judiciary is independent of executive control or political influence. The right to counsel of criminal defendants is restricted to cases in which the maximum penalty possible is six-month imprisonment or greater.

Sweden originated the judicial practice of the ombudsman when its first ombudsman was designated in 1766. The office has been in continuous existence since 1809. The institution has also been enshrined by the constitution and provides parliamentary control over the executive. The Riksdag elects four ombudsmen representing various interests such as consumers, gender equality, the press, children, the disabled, those experiencing ethnic and/or sexual orientation discrimination. The ombudsman is charged with supervising the observance of laws and statutes as applied by the courts and by public officials, excluding in cabinet ministers, members of the Riksdag, or directly elected local government officials. The ombudsmen are concerned especially with protecting the civil rights of individual citizens and of religious and other groups. There are some 5,000 complaints lodged with the office of the Ombudsman annually, though about 40% are dismissed immediately for a variety of reasons. Only about 20–25% of these complaints are investigated fully and usually reflect an individual caught on a bureaucratic "merry-go-round." Ombudsmen may admonish or prosecute offenders, although prosecutions are relatively rare.

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