National frameworks to address hate crime in Sweden

This page provides information on the national frameworks to address hate crime in Sweden. The information provided here should be viewed alongside data presented on Sweden's hate crime report page.

Hate crime recording and data collection

Hate crime data are collected by the National Council for Crime Prevention and are based on information from the police and the prosecution authority. Since 2012, the number of hate crime cases is estimated based on a statistical sample of police reports.

The police officer or civil clerk who receives a hate crime report must highlight a possible hate crime by ticking a mandatory field in the electronic report system (RAR). The police can also specify the circumstances by indicating the hate crime motive in the narrative of the report. The practice varies between different police regions in Sweden: some regions encourage officers to provide details in the narrative report, while in other regions officers attach a document with information or leave comments in the reporting system.

The police training programme on hate crime instructs officers to include a narrative report on why the case might be a hate crime in the recording form. Police staff can also make use of guidelines available on the intranet and via a dedicated app. A pop-up window providing a hate crime definition appears on the relevant question in the reporting system.

Any crime can be registered as a hate crime. Registered bias motivations are those included in the Swedish law, namely: "race", skin colour, national or ethnic background, faith, and sexual orientation or transgender identity or expression. The Swedish police are obliged to write up everything that is reported, regardless of whether or not it is possible to investigate the case. Thus, hate crimes cannot be distinguished from hate incidents.

The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) compiles national statistics on hate crime by using specific keyword searches in their database. All police reports that were flagged by the Swedish Police Authority as a potential hate crime are manually reviewed by researchers at the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention. Based on the information available in the police report, researchers assess if there is a clear bias motivation in the reported crime. If this is the case, they code the bias motivation, gender of the victim, gender of the perpetrator, mode of the crime, place of the reported crime, the relationship between the offender and the victim, and if the victim was targeted at work. A number of other variables, such as the crime type, are also recorded in the police report. The summary report is published every second year and is available online.

The prosecutor and police systems are separate, which means that the box ticked by police to highlight a potential hate crime does not appear when a case is transferred. The prosecutorial authorities are, however, able to highlight hate crime cases in their systems. Prosecutors have extensive guidelines on how to identify and prosecute hate crimes. The Courts are not obliged to specify, either in text or in the list of sections of the law reflected in the verdict, whether the penalty enhancement paragraph has been considered.

The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention conducts three victimization surveys that include questions related to hate crimes, namely: the Swedish Crime Survey, the Politician's Safety Survey and the School Survey on Crime. The Swedish Crime Survey is an annual survey of the attitudes and experiences of the general population (aged 16-84 years) regarding victimization, fear of crime, confidence in the criminal justice system, and crime victims' contacts with the criminal justice system. The Politician's Safety Survey is conducted every second year and asks elected representatives to respond to questions concerning self-reported victimization during the previous calendar year. The School Survey on Crime is conducted every second year and asks students in year 9 (15 years old) to respond to questions concerning self-reported victimization and participation in crime during the past 12 months.

Hate crime victim support

Specialist hate crime victim support is provided as part of the general victim support system in Sweden.

There are two institutions in Sweden that address the needs of crime victims: the governmental Swedish Crime Victim Authority, and Victim Support Sweden – the major civil society organization (CSO) supporting crime victims. Both institutions provide general support, but also offer targeted support for hate crime victims. Some specialized hate crime victim support is also provided by other CSOs, including the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Rights, among others. CSOs that offer support to hate crime victims are partly financed by the state.

The police have three designated national operative units responsible for developing police work and addressing hate crime. The units are connected to the three police regions of Stockholm, and the southern and western regions. There are also police investigators trained specifically to address hate crimes. The Swedish Prosecution Authority has issued guidelines on hate crime, and investigations into suspected hate crimes should be led by a hate crime prosecutor.

A Crime Victim Fund administered by the Swedish Crime Authority grants economic support to organizations that provide information, developmental work, projects and research related to victim support.

Police are required to conduct an individual needs assessment at the earliest opportunity. According to the relevant methodological guidelines for police officers, this structured initial assessment forms the basis of further assessments of a victim's protection needs. Police have a legal duty to inform crime victims about the providers of support and health care. The Swedish victim support system operates an "opt-in" referral system. Accordingly, police must ask each victim reporting a crime if they wish to be referred to a victim support service. Victims can be accompanied to the police station and courts by a support person.

In Sweden, victims have the status of parties in the proceedings if they claim for damages or support the prosecution. Throughout court proceedings, hate crime victims may be assisted by counsels for the injured party following a request to the police and the approval of the court. In the main, such counsels provide legal support, but they also cover a broader range of assistance. Counsels are appointed in three situations:

  1. for sexual assault crimes;
  2. for crimes against life and health, freedom and peace, and provided there are reasons to believe that the victim has the need for a lawyer based on their relation to the suspect or other circumstances; and
  3. for other crimes subject to prison sentences, and provided there are reasons to believe that the victim has a need for a lawyer based on their relation to the suspect or other circumstances.

The counsel has to claim for damages within the legal process, if not done so by the prosecutor. The counsel can be present at the police interview and may draw attention to and highlight the bias motivation.

In Sweden, the system of compensation for injuries caused by a criminal act consists of damages from the offender, insurance compensation and criminal injuries compensation provided by the state. If an offender cannot pay damages and the crime victim's insurance does not fully cover the injuries, the victim may be entitled to compensation from the state. This process is the same for all crime victims.

Hate crime capacity building

Three out of seven police regions have specialized hate crime teams, while the other regions have specially designated democracy and hate crime investigators. These specialist groups contribute to the implementation of training for trainee police on hate crimes. The specialist groups are also tasked with providing advice and support to the regions that do not have specialized officers in their ranks.

The police authority offers two voluntary online courses on hate crimes. One of the courses covers general information, including relevant definitions, identifying bias, police reporting, investigation, legislation and treatment of victims. The other course focuses on hate crime victim support and was developed in co-operation with Victim Support Sweden (Brottsofferjouren) as part of the Swevic project.

In addition, the police authority also started an advanced course on democracy and hate crimes in collaboration with the Linnaeus University. The training course is aimed at police employees with specific assignments in the area.

The public prosecutor's office runs a dedicated development center on ​​hate crimes and all prosecutorial chambers have at least one designated hate crime prosecutor. The hate crime prosecutors are all part of a national hate crime network meeting at an annually organized conference.