Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 1520 - 1539)



  1520. How effective do you think your strategy is?
  (Mr Löfstedt) As effective as any policy could be. There is no logical reason, in our view, for changing our policy to any other direction. We are not so repressive as some people think we are. This has a humanitarian base. On the other hand, we do not think there is any need for a change to a more liberal direction. That would cause us more harm than any problems it would solve.

  1521. From what you said earlier, it seemed that you treat suppliers of illegal drugs differently from users.
  (Mr Löfstedt) Yes.

  1522. Do I take it, from what you said, that as far as users are concerned, although they are treated as committing criminal acts, they are not sentenced through the legal system for punishment but for treatment?
  (Mr Löfstedt) If we are talking about normal drug addicts, in the normal system they are drug addicts and these are criminal acts, but they are not in prison because they are drug addicts; they are in prison because they are committing criminal acts. That is very important to bear in mind. I think around 45 per cent of all inmates in Swedish prisons are also drug users. As I said, they are not here because they are drug addicts. The main line for the criminal justice system is that if there are people in prison who have a problem with drugs, we should try to motivate them to have alternative treatment, instead of prison. We also have a system where part of the sentence can be changed into ordinary treatment. If they follow the treatment, then that is all right; if they leave the treatment, they will be sent back to prison. The whole of the sentence could be for treatment instead of going to prison. We try to do that. Part of the new action plan is to make that system more effective, to take care of the drug addicts's problems with drugs as a first step in helping them to live a normal life. When it comes to people who are using drugs but are not committing crime, they will go to court and be fined but they will not be sent to prison.

  1523. Would that apply even if they were only in possession, say, of a small amount of cannabis for their own use?
  (Mr Löfstedt) Possession is a crime and we have no limit as to what is free for personal use. Of course, if the amount is very small, you would not go to prison, but we try to be hard on drug dealers.

  1524. What sort of sentencing policy do you have for suppliers or drug dealers?
  (Mr Löfstedt) I do not know exactly how many years in prison would be imposed for different crimes. I saw the European Union study comparing the laws in various European states and the situation seems similar to me. That was also the conclusion, that the laws in the various Member States are very similar, but there is a big difference when it comes to implementation.

  1525. How expensive and how pure are illegal drugs in Sweden?
  (Mr Löfstedt) That is another question to which I do not know the answer.


  1526. Has the price gone up or down as a result of your attempts to control supply?
  (Mr Löfstedt) The impression is that the price is falling and they are sometimes even cheaper than alcohol, I am told.

Mrs Dean

  1527. Do you know whether that has varied over the last ten years? Have you seen the price come down?
  (Mr Löfstedt) My impression is that prices are stable. If they are moving, they are going down. There is no price wall, if I am correctly informed. Prices are stable.

Mr Singh

  1528. We talked about prices and drug use increasing over the last ten years, going back to the 1970 levels. Has there been a corresponding increase in crime in Sweden with the increased use of illicit drugs over the last ten years?
  (Mr Löfstedt) I do not think so but I am not sure. I have not compared the figures. I could do that as well.

  1529. I ask the question simply because in the UK one of the major crime problems we have is that of drug-related crime. I wondered if there was an increase in drugs in Sweden and if that had a similar impact?
  (Mr Löfstedt) I am not an expert on crime statistics. I do not have a feeling that that is the case, that we have increasing criminal activities.

Angela Watkinson

  1530. Mr Löfstedt, I would like to ask you about the emphasis on enforcement against drug users in the Swedish criminal justice system. Could I ask you, firstly: does this current policy result from the outcomes of the previous more relaxed policy towards drugs?
  (Mr Löfstedt) This has a long history in Sweden, so it is not a new idea, but, like everything else, it has its ups and downs. To make the system work efficiently, it is important that staff in prisons and within the criminal justice system put effort into this and that they train to motivate people. There is need for co-operation between prisons and municipalities. Sometimes it is a bit of a problem to get that co-operation. The idea is to split the bill between the criminal justice system and municipalities, which are responsible for treatment. The prison will undertake the cost for the period until the person is released from prison. When the treatment continues, the municipality would take over.

  1531. Is there any compulsion for withdrawal treatment, either in prison or outside?
  (Mr Löfstedt) We have a law which makes it compulsory. If you are addicted and not able to take care of yourself, then you are a danger to yourself or to your family. It is possible to put that person into a special treatment facility for a maximum of six months. That is a decision of the court. The purpose is again to motivate that person to undertake voluntary treatment for a longer period afterwards.

  1532. Can you say how effective the withdrawal treatments are?
  (Mr Löfstedt) No. I have seen some figures stating that around 80 per cent of these people go on to further voluntary treatment, but that does not indicate how long they would stay in voluntary treatment. This is a very hard group with more and more psychiatric treatment for problems connected with drug use. It is a very hard group to motivate and treat. Even so, it is said that there is about an 80 per cent success rate.

  1533. Do you think that the policy of enforcement against drug use has an effect on demand and therefore a knock-on effect on supply?
  (Mr Löfstedt) Yes.

  1534. What is the level of public support for this policy?
  (Mr Löfstedt) I think we have very good support. There are no differences between the various political parties. They have more or less the same policy. They might discuss details in the policy. I saw the report of a poll in a newspaper a month ago stating that 94 or 96 per cent of Swedish people stand behind this policy. There is very strong support for the policy.

  1535. Do you know if this applies particularly to parents of school age children?
  (Mr Löfstedt) I think this is over the whole of society. Parents and others support the ideas and the policy.

Mr Malins

  1536. In this country a very great deal of acquisitive crime—burglary and theft—is committed to fund a drug habit. Is that your experience as well?
  (Mr Löfstedt) Yes.

  1537. Is drug-related crime on the increase?
  (Mr Löfstedt) I am not sure. I have no figures on that, so I cannot say.

  1538. Could I ask you a bit about sentencing? You drew a distinction between a drug addict and a criminal who is a drug addict. In coming before a court in this country, someone who has committed a burglary to fund a drug a habit, a heroin habit, would be sent to prison. Did I hear you say that in your country there is an option to go for part of the sentence in prison and part for treatment? Could you explain a bit more about what that actually means?
  (Mr Löfstedt) Take a burglar who is also a drug addict, and let us say he is sentenced to one year in prison for the burglary. When he arrives at the prison, or perhaps even before that, an investigation will be started. If that investigation shows that this person is in need of treatment for his drug addiction, and that perhaps that is the main reason why he is a criminal, the criminal justice system, or the officers within the system, together with the municipalities, are supposed to make a plan for this person. That plan could state that for the rest of the sentence this person should go on a voluntary treatment programme. He would have six months left of his prison sentence but the treatment programme is for a year, so he is obliged to stay for the first six months, or he would be returned to prison. Then of course, he should remain for the whole period, but the last part of it is voluntary and he cannot be stopped from leaving the treatment facility. The criminal justice system, or the prison, pays for the first part and the second part is paid for by the municipality.

  1539. Are you saying that if a judge gives somebody two years' imprisonment, the moment that that person gets to prison, it is possible that the authorities could transfer him or her into another place, being a treatment centre?
  (Mr Löfstedt) Yes.

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