Examination of Witness (Questions 1540
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2002
1540. Is that possible for all the sentence
as well as part of the sentence?
(Mr Löfstedt) In court the judge could say that
there is another sentence which might be called in English a "contract
treatment". That person makes a contract with the court so
that instead of going to prison, he will go for treatment.
1541. That would be residential treatment?
(Mr Löfstedt) Or open care treatment and it is
up to the judge or the court to decide whether that is sufficient.
There are not limits to that. The court is free to decide, depending
on what they think about the programme or the plan for that person.
1542. Do you have plenty of facilities to enable
courts to do that? Are there enough resources to enable the courts
to pass that sort of sentence?
(Mr Löfstedt) Yes. The good thing with contract
treatment is that the court decides and the municipality pays.
1543. Is there some evidence that this kind
of approach is more effective than simply locking the person in
a prison for two years?
(Mr Löfstedt) Once again, it is very difficult
to provide proof or scientific evidence. It is our experience
that this is a very good model.
1544. Do you have any concerns about the ability
of people to get hold of drugs whilst in prison? That has been
quite a big problem over here. Is it the same with your country?
(Mr Löfstedt) It is a problem occasionally, but
not all the time, and certainly not in all prisons. It does occur
now and then. It is a problem but it is not a major problem.
1545. Can I put this to you again? One of the
arguments that people have put to us for reducing the seriousness
with which we treat, for example, possession of ecstasy is that
you are criminalising a generation of young people who are actually
likely just to be playing with the drug, which is not addictive,
and they will grow out of it very shortly. What do you say to
(Mr Löfstedt) I think it is more a matter of
how you treat criminals. The basic idea in Sweden is that by criminalising
the use of drugs, society and the Government or Parliament will
send a very clear message: "We do not want drugs in society".
It also gives the authorities, for instance the police, the possibility
to investigate drug use, which means it is possible to detect
drug use at a very early stage. That does perhaps make it easier
for the social authorities to try to help this young individual.
That is our purpose. I do not recognise as a problem for young
people or elsewhere in society that it would be harmful to them
to be criminalised. That is not a problem. We are not placing
a stamp on that person.
1546. You do if you send him to jail?
(Mr Löfstedt) We do not send drug users to jail.
We send criminals to jail.
1547. What about the drug user? We are talking
about three friends who go for a night out to a club in Stockholm.
One of them is carrying ten ecstasy tablets and he shares them
out amongst his friends and they pay him back the cost. Is he
a drug dealer?
(Mr Löfstedt) We would see that person as a drug
1548. So he is going to go to jail?
(Mr Löfstedt) Probably.
1549. So he has been criminalised?
(Mr Löfstedt) Yes.
1550. That would be for doing something that
many young people would not regard as a very serious crime and
which will have no lasting damage?
(Mr Löfstedt) What is the alternative? Should
we accept drug dealing under certain circumstances? I think this
is a problem but it is the same problem we have with many other
laws. There is always a border. In our system we have tried to
build in safeguards that hopefully should take care of the main
problems that might occur along the borders of what might be acceptable.
Certainly, possession and drug dealing are criminal and one of
the main objectives of the policy is to deal with that. We also
place the importance of drug trafficking at the street level,
small scale trafficking at the street level, and also large scale
trafficking. It is equally important to deal with both aspects.
Part of prevention is avoiding the open drug scene where everyone
knows where to find drugs.
1551. We have something called the Misuse of
Drugs Act which categorises drugs according to the seriousness
with which the law treats them. Do you have any equivalent to
that in Sweden?
(Mr Löfstedt) I know that the courts have a list
of various drugs but I am not a lawyer so I am not familiar with
the details of that list. I know that courts make reference to
the kinds of drugs sold and so on.
1552. And they vary the sentence according to
the type of drugs? Here, for example, we would say that heroin
or crack cocaine are Class A drugs and that is the most serious;
if you are caught dealing with those, you receive the most serious
(Mr Löfstedt) We do not have the same system.
Within the law, there is a list of drugs not acceptable in medicine
and then another list of drugs that are used in medicine but are
seen as dangerous drugs, and then a couple of other lists of psycho-active
substances. According to the law, there is no difference between
various types of drugs. The way you sell them is important, whether
that is large scale or small scale, and the circumstances. I know
that they follow a list in the implementation of the law and practice
in court. It is more practice than law.
1553. There is surely a recognition that if
you are selling heroin as opposed to ecstasy, that is a far more
serious crime and you are liable to be doing far more serious
damage and therefore far larger penalties should be incurred?
(Mr Löfstedt) I think that is the case even in
1554. As you will know, there is very much an
ongoing debate in this country about changes in the drug law.
Can you tell us if any such debate is taking place in Sweden or
is the policy that you have outlined to us pretty unanimous?
(Mr Löfstedt) I would say it is pretty unanimous,
but there are some signs of what occurs here in the UK, a group
of intellectuals, scientists and journalists discussing the problem
and saying the policy is too restrictive, or whatever. So far,
that is a very small group and only one of them advocates legalisation.
They think that the policy is too strict and too repressive. Basically
I would say we have very strong support for the policy.
1555. Amongst the political parties represented
in the Parliament, there is no division of opinion at all?
(Mr Löfstedt) No.
1556. I would like to ask some question about
health but, just before that, I am still a bit confused as to
whether you think the Swedish policy has been a success. What
we are looking at is: is our policy working? I want to know, given
that the level of drug abuse among 15 to 16 year olds has more
than doubled in Sweden over the last nine years, if you think
your policy is working?
(Mr Löfstedt) Yes.
1557. Why do you think drug use has gone up
(Mr Löfstedt) I am sure that things other than
policy influence the prevalence of drug taking amongst youngsters.
We have a youth culture as well as the influence of the policy
of other countries, et cetera. As I have tried to show, we have
put a lot of effort into this particular policy during the Eighties
and the prevalence of drug taking went down. What has happened
over the last ten years during which the prevalence of drug use
has gone up is that we have not been working so hard as we did
in the Eighties. If we are doing what we say we are doing, I think
that will have an effect and success. We have failed in that during
the past ten years. That will partly be the reason for the increase
1558. I would like to look at some of the health
outcomes because the figuresand I know we have already
discussed the problems with the figureson the health outcomes
do look very bad. What emphasis generally do you place on harm
reduction in your strategy?
(Mr Löfstedt) Harm reduction is a very difficult
area. One problem is that at the political level in Sweden harm
reduction is seen as the first step towards legalisation. I know
that is not the whole truth but it has been used in that way in
the European debate. That is a political problem. We also have
what could be called harm reduction activities in Sweden. We even
have a needle exchange programme, methadone and adjuvant activities
of that type. The problem is: firstly, how do we do that without
making it any easier to use drugs? That is the first conflict
we have to deal with. Secondly, we do not think there is a problem
with harm reduction as part of a comprehensive policy. Today the
risk we see is of more and more countries concentrating their
policies only on harm and harm reduction instead of facing the
drug problem as a whole. That is a problem. Briefly, that is our
view on harm reduction.
1559. Surely in the Ministry of Health one of
the greatest concerns must be the health of your citizens. From
the figures I have here, it looks as if the number of problem
drug users in Sweden is higher than in the Netherlands and other
countries. Would you agree that the figure is 4 to 5.4 per 1,000
in Sweden, compared with 2.5 per 1,000 in these countries?
(Mr Löfstedt) Once again, I am scared to use
figures from various countries and compare them. I have been to
Amsterdam and it seems strange that their figures should be so
much better than ours.