On January 2, 2022, new sentencing rules in the Swedish Criminal Code (Brottsbalken [BrB] (SFS 1962:700)) entered into force, eliminating certain exceptions for criminal offenders aged 18 to 20. Previously, persons younger than 21 years old were entitled to an ungdomsrabatt (literally, “youth rebate”) that applied during sentencing for all crimes. (29 kap 7 § 1 st. BrB.) Under the new rules, the youth rebate no longer applies to crimes adjudicated after January 2, 2022, that carry a minimum sentence of more than one year of imprisonment. The rules also cover attempting, preparing, or conspiring to commit such crimes, or when the individual crime carries a sentencing value of one year or more. A person’s relative youth may still be considered during sentencing for less serious crimes. (29 kap. 7 § 3 st BrB.)
According to the government bill, the purpose of the change is to increase the punishment for more serious crimes and prevent the courts from issuing sentences perceived as lenient and that fail to recognize the severity of the crime. (Regeringens proposition [Government Bill] 2021/22:17 Slopad straffrabatt för unga myndiga vid allvarlig brottslighet at 1.) The amendment also brings Swedish law into closer alignment with the laws of its neighboring Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway), which do not have special sentencing guidelines for persons aged 18 to 20. (Regeringens proposition at 20.) Moreover, certain types of “youth sentences,” such as “youth surveillance” (ungdomsövervakning) that are aimed particularly at younger offenders will now be limited to persons who have not attained the age of 18 at the time of the crime. (32 kap. 1, 2, and 3a §§.)
In preparing the legislation, the government noted that criminal offenders aged 15 to 20 are overrepresented in Sweden, particularly younger men. During 2020, persons aged 18 to 20 were convicted of 20 cases of murder, five counts of manslaughter, 79 instances of aggravated assault, seven cases of arson, and two cases of aggravated arson. (Regeringens proposition at 21.) The government found that for these most serious crimes, sentencing reductions for adults of up to half of the original sentence “risk undermining the penal system’s credibility and legitimacy.” (Regeringens proposition at 24.)
In addition, the law eliminates the youth exception for crimes without statutory limitations. Previously, perpetrators of serious crimes, such as murder, who were younger than 21 years old could still be subject to a statute of limitations even though the crime itself was not subject to a statute of limitations. (35 kap. 2 § 2 st. BrB.) The new rules limit that exception to persons younger than 18 years old at the time of the crime. (35 kap. 2 § 2st BrB, as amended.)
The amendment does not remove the possibility of making other individual determinations during sentencing, and Swedish law still provides for reduced sentencing when several crimes have been committed at the same time (mändgrabatt) — meaning that if several crimes have been committed, the length of the prison sentence or sum of the monetary fine will not be an accumulation of all the prescribed sentences. (30 kap. 3, 4 §§ BrB.)
Also on January 2, 2022, amendments to the Act on Special Provisions for Young Offenders (Lag med särskilda bestämmelser om unga lagöverträdare (SFS 1964:167)) entered into force, eliminating the requirement for special reasons for sentencing persons aged 18 to 21 to more than three months’ imprisonment. (28 § Lag med särskilda bestämmelser om unga lagöverträdare (SFS 196:167).)The amendments (SFS 2021:1103 and SFS 2021:1104) do not change the rules for criminal offenders who are older than 15 but younger than 18.