Life imprisonment in Sweden
Life imprisonment in Sweden (livstids fängelse in Swedish) is a sentence of indeterminate length. Swedish law states that the most severe punishment is "prison for 10 (18 in case of murder) years or life", and so life imprisonment is, in practice, never shorter than ten years. However, a prisoner may apply to the government for clemency, in practice having their life sentence commuted to a set number of years, which then follows standard Swedish parole regulations. Clemency can also be granted on humanitarian grounds; however, the number of granted clemencies per year has been low since 1991, usually no more than one or two. Until 1991 few served more than 15 years, but since then the time spent in prison has increased and in 2007 the usual time was at least 21 years. Offenders under the age of 21 when the crime was committed can not be sentenced to life imprisonment.
The person currently having served for the longest time is Leif Axmyr, who, in 1982, killed his former girlfriend Ulla-Britt Jacobsson and her new fiancée Tommy Larsson. As of 2011, Axmyr has spent nearly three decades in prison, since 1997 as the person longest kept imprisoned in Sweden, and since 2006, when murderer Leif Peters died in psychiatric care in 2006 after 39 years of confinement, Axmyr became the person with the longest record of confinement still ongoing. Axmyr has filed a total of 11 appeals, with one (in 2010) successfully overturning his imprisonment in favor of a determinate sentence of 46 years (which would have implied his release in 2013, with two-thirds served), but this appeal was overturned and was later appealed to the Supreme Court of Sweden, where it was refused to be heard. At present, there are about 170 people, including four women, serving life sentences in Sweden. All were convicted of murder or, a clear-cut minority, of conspiracy to commit murder.
Increased criticism from prison authorities, prisoners and victims led to a revision of practices and in 2006 a new law was passed that also gave a prisoner the right to apply for a determined sentence at the Örebro Lower Court. A prisoner has to serve at least 10 years in prison before applying and the set sentence cannot be under 18 years, which is the longest determinate sentence allowed under Swedish law (10 years plus 4 years if one is a repeat offender and 4 more years if the sentence includes other serious crimes). When granting a determinate sentence the court takes into account the crime, the prisoner's behaviour in prison, public safety and the chance of rehabilitation. However, some prisoners may never be released, being considered too dangerous. Of those who have been given set sentences under the new law, the sentences have ranged between 25 and 31 years.
The Swedish Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that ten years in prison should overrule life imprisonment as the "general option" for premeditated murder. On July 1, 2009, a new law came into effect, increasing the maximum sentence other than life from 10 to 18 years. Offenders under the age of 21 cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment, with a special cap set on 14 years after the reform.
- "Regeringskansliets rättsdatabaser: Brottsbalk 2009:396" (in Swedish).
- "Fången som suttit längst: dubbelmördaren som ber om nåd". Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish). 27 December 1997.
- "Leif Axmyr, 60, är den fånge som suttit längst tid i svenskt fängelse - snart 18 år i sträck. Han vet fortfarande inte när han släpps". BSK Arkiv (in Swedish). 29 May 2009.
- "Tingsrätten omvandlar ådömt livstidsstraff" (in Swedish). Örebro tingsrätt. May 7, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- TT (December 21, 2010). "Axmyr får avslag" (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- Eriksson, Gunnar (March 17, 2011). "Leif Axmyr blir kvar i fängelset" (in Swedish). Arbetarbladet. Retrieved March 18, 2011.
- "Livstidsdömde Axmyr har gift sig" (in Swedish). Nyheter P4 Gävleborg; Sveriges Radio. June 25, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2011.