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Threats and influence

Ensam kvinna på kvällen. Foto: Tina Miguel

Research shows that it is the victims of crime that are affected by threats, rather than the witnesses. Photo: Tina Miguel

When a person tries to influence victims of crime and witnesses with the intent to hide crime, it is a matter of unlawful influence. This can involve anything from threats to harassment, from violence to vandalism. It often has to do with the victim not reporting a crime or providing incorrect information, to the benefit of the culprit.
Attempting to affect legal proceedings using violence and other methods is classified as interference in a judicial matter. A special study done by Brå shows that the number of reported cases of interference in a judicial matter increased by 70 percent between 1999 and 2006. Since this type of crime began to be accounted for as a category of its own in the criminal statistics of 2009, the number of reports increased further, to more than 5,000 annually.

Although threats towards witnesses are often spoken of, research shows that it is mainly the victims of crime that are affected. Within organised crime, it is apparently unlikely that a threat will become known to the authorities — if the person affected has personally committed offences and is involved in the crime committed by the network, it is presumably unlikely that the person will be willing to report the crime.

Young not aware it is a serious crime


Regarding crimes that actually are reported to the police, many of the culprits are very young and often unaware that it is illegal to try to influence a person to not report a crime. Amongst youths, harassment online or via SMS is common, but crime victims or witnesses are also threatened directly at the scene of the crime. Sometimes, the threat is given in front of the police, which indicates that youths do not know that it is a crime. What they are even less aware of is the fact that it is a serious crime that can often result in more serious punishment than the crime they are trying to hide. Over the years, the way the law views interference in a judicial matter has been tightened, and the crime can now lead to as much as eight years of imprisonment in serious cases.

The threat follows the crime


There are slightly more men than women affected, and the culprit is usually a man. It is mainly the crime victim who is affected by threats or violence in connection with a crime that has been committed. Usually, the threat is given in connection with the occasion the crime itself is committed, such as when a victim is threatened with reprisals immediately following an assault, if he or she should report the crime.

Threat of violence is the most common form of interference in a judicial matter — actual violence occurs less often. On the other hand, the threat can have an amplified effect because it is often made in connection with violence. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate interference in a judicial matter from the basic crime, such as when a person has been assaulted and threatened regularly for a long time. This can sometimes lead to interference in a judicial matter not being reported.

It is by means of the consequences for the judicial proceedings that unlawful influence of crime victims and witnesses becomes visible. Some people stand their ground in spite of pressure, whilst others change their stories or no longer want to participate in the legal proceedings. This risks making investigations and criminal prosecutions more difficult and therefore makes it possible for perpetrators to continue their criminal activities.

Facts

  • 5,600 reported cases of interference in a judicial matter (2012)
  • 6,390 violations against an obligation not to contact a protected person (2012)
  • 400 persons prosecuted for interference in a judicial matter (2010)
  • 50 percent of the suspects are aged 15—25 (2010)
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