Crime and Punishment
By Lennart Hane, Lawyer, Stockholm.







This article was written in response to an article "Crime and Punishment" published in The Guardian on May 21, 1999, following the case where a Scottish sheriff court ruled that a parent used excessive force when he slapped his daughter.

The author of the article praised the Swedish anti-smacking law. That made Lennart Hane reply. The Guardian enthusiastically received his article but the Family Editor failed to publish it.

Lennart Hane is a very well-known Swedish lawyer. He has written several books about the totalitarian system in Sweden.






The experiences of the now 20-yr old smacking ban in Sweden are diverse. They are hardly as good as the missionaries try to paint it to be. In many cases parents are forced to use physical discipline, especially with pre-school children, but they are forced to keep it a secret because they run the risk of their children being taken into public care.

The risks increase as the child grows, since he or she can become - consciously or inadvertently - the betrayer of his own parents, because he does not understand that he is running the risk of being separated from his parents and siblings.

It is possible that the increase of bullying in schools and the rise in children's propensity to use violence against each other can be evidence that physical punishment is no longer being used, and in which case, that shows that this has been to the detriment of the child.

The disadvantages of the smacking ban - even for the child - can be illustrated by the following case that has not yet been finally adjudicated.


The Spanish-Swedish parents in Stockholm

On December 10, 1998, the Southern Roslags District Court sentenced a mother and stepfather to two months imprisonment each for having spanked their six year old daughter between January 1, 1997 and November 27 1997. The shoehorn that was used to spank the child was made of plastic and it was about 45 cm long. It didn't make any wails, but it gave a sudden redness and a temporary burn. Perhaps the ideal instrument for the parent who has to spank his child and at the same time wants to be sure that he does not harm him or her.

The parents had to pay 15 000 SEK (£ 1111) in damages to their daughter for violation of her personal integrity.

The mother is from Spain and the father is Swedish. They belong to a religious movement called "The Potters' House" (Krukmakarnas hus). The parents both admitted to spanking the little girl. The child was always given three warnings before she was spanked. They informed the Court that the reason why they used a shoehorn instead of their hand, is because the hand represents love, not punishment. Both parents stated that they followed the teachings of The Bible on the question of child rearing.

According to the verdict, the parents have decided to refrain from spanking their child because they are afraid that the social authorities will remove her from their care. The little girl reported proudly at her nursery school, that her parents spanked her. Following the routines which have been set out for the professions, the pre-school teacher reported the child's story to the local social worker, who in her turn reported the parents to the police.

Under threat that the child would be taken into public care and placed in a foster home, the parents were forced to submit to a daytime investigation during which the parents and child were observed at a so-called investigation home. When this, for the parents, very belittling investigation had lasted four weeks, they refused to co-operate any further. Shortly afterwards the social council decided to take their child into care immediately and put her in a foster home. After a preliminary hearing in the

District Administrative Court
(Länsrätten) the girl was allowed to be reunited with her parents. Maybe the mother had succeeded in convincing the judge that she really loved her daughter. They had been separated for 14 days, and both mother and daughter were lucky to have had a sensible judge on their case.

The child had a lawyer of her own, who was supposed to protect her interests, during the trial in the

District Administrative Court
. The lawyer pleaded to have the child placed in a foster home. Also in the penal case, the child had her own lawyer, who was extremely aggressive towards her parents, especially concerning their religious beliefs.

Southern Roslags District Court wrote in its verdict, the following:

"Children are very dependent on the adults around them, and especially their parents, to feel safety in their lives and environment among other things. That is the reason why the society must react strongly when children are subjected to ill treatment. The ill treatment of V has taken place in her home during a long period of time and it has been planned and systematic. Even if the injuries have been relatively slight, the deeds must be judged as assault and battery, due to the conditions we have stated above.

Assault and battery is a crime of the sort that is punished by prison. To this must be added the fact that the assault was perpetrated on a child by her mother and stepfather for almost one whole year. The parents seem to live under good social conditions, so there is no reason to choose any other punishment. The parents should therefore be sentenced to a shorter prison sentence."

On Thursday May 20, inst., the Court of Appeals confirmed the sentence of the lower court.

This very fresh example of the "successful" swedish smacking ban gives rise to very harsh comments. I will confine myself to point out that the law and its mobilisation of the social authorities, police, prosecutors, courts and lawyers have in no way been an advantage for the child.

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