The impact of the pandemic on the workflow within the legal chain

English summary of Brå report 2021:4

This report features an analysis of the effects in Sweden of the pandemic on the inflow and outflow of cases in the Police Authority, the Prosecution Authority and the courts.

The consequences of the pandemic for Swedish society first became noticeable one week into March of 2020, and had become particularly apparent by the middle of the month. Rules and regulations concerning social distancing were introduced, which resulted in a reduction of movement and activity within society. The pandemic has continued to set its mark on society since then, even if the restrictions were somewhat milder during the summer and the beginning of the autumn. In response to the increased spreading of infection, however, the guidelines were tightened again at the end of October/beginning of November.

It is reasonable to imagine that the restrictions and the reductions in movement and activity in society may have had an effect on crime, and Brå has therefore, since April 2020, been conducting a monthly analysis to determine whether the number of reported crimes has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The legal system has also been affected by the pandemic – for example, the risk of infection resulted in the cancellation of planned staff training, which led to an increase in the availability of resources for regular work.

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Key findings in the study

Number of reported crimes increased in certain crime categories and decreased in others

The number of crimes that were reported during the period March to December increased gradually each year between 2015 and 2019. If the development of the number of reports during March to December in 2020 had followed the previous trend, this increase would have continued. Instead, however, the trend was broken, and the number of reported crimes decreased somewhat (by one per cent).

The reporting level in 2020 compared to 2019, however, varied between different crime types. For certain crime types, there was a reduction in the number of reports, whilst for others there was an increase. The overall picture of the observed changes shows that, compared with 2019, the
number of reported crimes largely corresponded to the two waves of the pandemic and the social restrictions that were imposed. The reporting level during the summer and early autumn, when there was a reduction in infection levels, differed less significantly from the level in 2019.

The production of the legal system increased during 2020

In summarising the overall work of the legal system during 2020, the clearest conclusion would be that there was an increase in production within all three authorities, relative to 2019. In the main, this should be attributable to all three of the studied authorities having had more resources than normal for the processing of cases.

One explanation for this, as suggested by all of the authorities, is that a large proportion of all staff training had been cancelled as a result of the pandemic. The assessment of the police is that there was also a reduction in both the number and the length of meetings. For the police, there was also a reduction in certain types of work duties, such as the policing of sporting events and state visits. There was also a reduction in both the workload of the border police and in the number of passport applications. Seen as a whole, this provided the police with additional capacity for other forms of work, such as the registration and investigation of crime.

About the study

This report features an analysis of the effects of the pandemic on the inflow and outflow of cases in the Police Authority, the Prosecution Authority and the courts. The analysis concerns the developments until the end of December 2020. For background, the introduction describes how the number of police reports developed during the course of the year, in comparison with 2019. The figures in this section were obtained from Brå’s previously published monthly PMs concerning the effects of the pandemic on reported crime, but the discussions of the causes of the changes that were observed are not identical to those included in the monthly PMs.

Publication facts

Author: Stina Holmberg, Lars Lewenhagen and Anna Eksten

© Brottsförebyggande rådet 2024


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