Man With Disability Denied Adequate Support in Legal Process

The Supreme Court of Sweden.

This week, Civil Rights Defenders files several complaints in a case where a man with a psychosocial disability received inadequate support in a legal process. Even though the police suspected at an early stage that the man was in need of reasonable accommodation, no adjustments were made to meet his needs.

The man, who was sentenced to prison in late 2018, has an autism spectrum disorder, which manifests in a need for reasonable accommodation during the legal process in order to be able to communicate and conduct his own defence.

The police suspected during the very first interrogation that the man had a psychosocial disability. Still, no adjustments were made to provide him with additional support. Furthermore, neither the man’s lawyer nor any of the courts took into account his special needs.

The lack of support led to a situation where the man was in no capacity to give his version of what had happened. As a result, the man acknowledged his participation in the crimes he was being accused of, without realising that he was pleading guilty.

“If you have a disability, you have the right to obtain reasonable accommodation in order to understand a legal process. It is a fundamental human right. This case is flawed in a number of areas which is why we have decided to file complaints against several of the responsible authorities,” said Annika Åkerberg, Senior Legal Adviser at Civil Rights Defenders.

The man has difficulties with oral communication and struggles to express himself without being asked a direct question. As it is easier for him to express himself in writing, he should have been given the opportunity to answer the questions posed to him during the interrogations and court proceedings in written form. In addition, the man had a need for additional time to answer questions, as well as access to a support person with an understanding of his disability.

“We have seen similar cases in the past where the authorities have not taken adequate responsibility for the affected persons. This must change. The right to a fair trial is fundamental, whether the person is guilty of a crime or not,” said Annika Åkerberg.

Filing complaints against several authorities

By filing complaints against several actors involved in the legal process, Civil Rights Defenders attempts to clarify the responsibilities of the various authorities when it comes to ensuring that a person with a disability receives adequate support in a legal process.

Civil Rights Defenders:

  • Complains to the Chancellor of Justice due to the fact that the police and the prosecutor did not ensure that the man obtained reasonable accommodation during the preliminary investigation.
  • Submits a complaint to the Bar Association against the man’s first lawyer, as the lawyer did not present the man’s need of reasonable accommodation.
  • Complains to the Chancellor of Justice due to the fact that the prosecutor who led the preliminary investigation did not take into account the evidence in favour of Civil Rights Defenders’ client.
  • Files a complaint to the Supreme Court regarding miscarriage of justice.
  • Files a motion for a retrial to the Supreme Court.

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