Impermissible or unlawful, influence means harassment, threats, violence, and corruption for the purpose of influencing the exercise of public authority. Attempting to influence the judicial process by threats and other methods is classified as obstruction of justice.
Many of Sweden's politicians have been exposed as a result of their elective office. During 2012, one in five politicians was exposed to an offence or similar incident in connection with his or her elective office. The most common are threats or attacks in social media. This can be seen from Brå's study, Politicians' Safety Survey (PTU), where elected politicians answered questions regarding concern about, and exposure to, threats, violence, and harassment in connection with their political positions.
Chairpersons are particularly exposed; one-fourth stated that they were exposed, primarily to threats and harassment. Among the councilmembers who were asked, 16 per cent state that they were exposed to threats, violence, or harassment sometime during 2011. The majority of the victims during the preceding year were exposed several times (79%). Two particularly exposed positions are the chairperson of the social welfare committee and the board chairperson, of which 36 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively, state that they were exposed.
Only 17 per cent of the incidents were reported to the police. The primary reason why women did not report incidents to the police was that the exposure was experienced as part and parcel of the elective office (27%, as compared with 19% among men). Among men, the primary reason was that they did not believe that a report would lead anywhere (28%, as compared with 24% among women). Four out of ten incidents were reported to parties other than the police, such as a security officer. However, more than half of the elected officials (54%) did not report the incident to the police or anyone else.
One in four (25%) of the exposed elected officials chose not to get involved or express an opinion on a specific political issue after having been exposed to threat, harassment, or violence. It was also not uncommon to consider leaving all positions (17%) or to experience doubt prior to a decision (16%). However, there were relatively few who actually left all of their positions or changed decisions following exposure (4% each).
Uncommon forms of corruption in Sweden include a customs officer providing information about when a customs station will be unstaffed or a police officer leaking information regarding a planned seizure, but a single officer can nevertheless cause major damage to society. This is stated in the report Corruption in government agencies (2014).
The most common form of corruption is that the insider and the offender have a pre-existing friendship. This type of friendship may have developed, for example, in connection with a criminal investigation in which a police officer and an offender meet often and regularly. Friendships between an employee and an inmate may develop in the context of the prison and probation services. These types of relationships can gradually cross over into corruption. The survey includes cases where corruption may have impeded or destroyed investigations, and thereupon the justice process. Corruption can also lead to the failure of planned seizures or wrongful disbursements being made.
Based on the reports submitted to the National Anti-Corruption Unit, the persons most exposed to bribes are those in national and municipal service. This can be seen in Reported Corruption in Sweden (2013). A common feature of the bribed officials is that they are officials in leading positions or otherwise have influence. Persons with supervisory and control functions are particularly exposed, as are officials who evaluate alcohol serving permits, food establishment permits, and building permits. Persons responsible for procurement are also in the risk zone. Almost one-third of all of persons offering bribes are professionally active in the construction and infrastructure industry, but bribes also occur in the wholesale and retail trades, and within healthcare and home healthcare services. The most common bribes are money, conference travel, technical gadgets, dinners, and renovations. There is corruption throughout the country, but it is more common in the large cities; Stockholm County represents almost half of all matters, followed by Skåne and Västra Götaland.
Extortion is more common in cash-intensive industries, where people work off the books and there are contact interfaces with criminal elements. The primary victims are companies in the construction industry, companies in the restaurant industry, and small stores. A 2012 study from Brå (Brå 2012:12) shows that the extortionists belonged to organised crime groups in 59 per cent of the studied preliminary investigations. In 2013, 5,355 extortion offences were reported in Sweden.
Attempting to influence the legal process by threats and other methods is classified as obstruction of justice. A special study conducted by Brå shows that the number of reports of obstruction of justice increased by 70 per cent between 1999 and 2006. After this type of offence began to be reported as its own item in the 2009 criminal statistics, the reports have further increased to almost 5,000-6,000 per year. In 2014, approximately 5,000 cases of obstruction of justice were reported, which is a 2 per cent increase as compared with the preceding year.
Although threats against witnesses are often discussed, a report from Brå (Brå 2008:8) shows that the primary recipients of threats are victims of crime. As is the case with organised criminality, the threats probably do not come to the attention of public authorities – if the victim has a criminal record and is involved in the network's criminality, the inclination to report the offence is probably low.
In respect of offences which are actually reported to the police, many of the perpetrators are very young and often unaware that it is illegal to attempt to influence someone not to report a criminal offence. Threats of violence are the most common form of obstruction of justice, and actual violence occurs less often. However, the threat may have an enhanced effect since it is often made in connection with violence. Sometimes it is difficult to isolate obstruction of justice from the underlying offence, for example when someone has been alternately assaulted and threatened over the course of a long period of time. This may mean that obstruction of justice is sometimes not reported.
The impermissible, or unlawful influence on crime victims and witnesses is made apparent through the consequences on the legal process. Some individuals resist the pressure while others change their accounts, or will no longer participate in the legal process. This risks impeding investigations and prosecution of offences and thus makes it possible for perpetrators to continue their criminality.
Number of conviction decisions¹ of violence against public officials as the primary offence, 2004 – 2013. Source: Persons found guilty of offences
In 2013, there were 2,150 conviction decisions¹ for violence or threats against public officials. This was a reduction, as compared with 2012, of 204 decisions, or 9 per cent. The convictions in respect of violence or threats against public officials have declined by 364 decisions, or 14 per cent, as compared with 2004.
During the period 2004 – 2010, the average level was 2,530 conviction decisions per year. Since 2011, the number of conviction decisions in respect of violence or threats against public officials has declined 2 years in a row and is now at the lowest reported level during the most recent ten-year period.