Good versus Evil

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greater punitiveness in the Swedish justice system was mainly the result of a ... dismantling of the welfare state, together with the neoliberal shift in society at large, has led ...... Westfelt L (2009) Svensk brottsutveckling i internationell belysning.
European Journal of Criminology 2014, Vol. 11(4) 410– 428 0?journalCode=euca a) Title of the article: Good versus Bad? Victims, offenders and victim-offenders in Swedish Crime Policy Bills Date: 09/08/2012 Word count (including references): 7782 b) Dr. Anita Heber. School of Social Sciences 141 89 Huddinge Södertörn University Sweden AND Stockholm University Department of Criminology 106 91 Stockholm Sweden E-mail: [email protected] Phone +46-8-16 14 65 Fax + 46-8-15 78 81 c) crime victim, offender, victim-offender overlap, crime policy, Sweden

Acknowledgements: I would like to thank The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) for funding this research. I would also like to thank Dr David Shannon for translating this article.



In the crime policy field, the crime victim is usually described as the direct opposite of the offender in terms of characteristics and needs. This article analyses crime policy descriptions of crime victims and offenders, with a special focus on how politicians address the issue of the victim-offender overlap. The material comprises a sample of legislative crime policy bills submitted by members of the Swedish parliament during 2005–2010. In the bills, crime victims are described as good, innocent and in need of help, whilst the offender is seen as a bad, ruthless scoundrel. In-between stands a group of victim-offenders; pitiable poor things. However, when responses to offenders are discussed, both poor things and scoundrels are to be punished severely.


Good versus Bad? Crime victims, offenders and victim-offenders in Swedish Crime Policy Bills Introduction Crime policy has become a political priority across a large part of the western world. Crime and punishment is an emotionally charged field that affects large numbers of people, and the crime policies advocated by different political parties can have a decisive impact on these parties’ electoral success or failure (Garland and Sparks, 2000). The crime victim is utilised in the field of crime policy as a means by which politicians show themselves to be active and also as a means of legitimising a more punitive approach to offenders (Tham, 2001). The antithesis of the crime victim is the offender, who is increasingly often demonised and described as evil, threatening and as a stranger (Garland, 2001; Taylor, 1999). As has been shown by a number of studies, however, it is not always possible to make a clear distinction between victims and offenders. Instead there is a substantial victim-offender overlap, i.e. many crime victims are also offenders and vice versa (Jennings, Piquero and Reingle, 2012, Lauritsen and Laub 2007). The objective of the current study is to analyse crime policy descriptions of crime victims and offenders, with a special focus on those instances where there is an overlap between these two concepts. The article will also discuss the crime policy measures that have been proposed in relation to victims, offenders and victim-offenders and analyse how these responses are affected by the descriptions of the three groups.

The crime victim versus the offender, or ‘us’ versus ‘them’ The way in which the crime victim is generally portrayed has been described by Christie (1986) using the concept of the ideal victim. Besides being sufficiently weak and adequately respectable, an ideal victim must also behave in the way in which the community expects a crime victim to behave. Miers (1990) argues that the social role of crime victim involves responses such as the victim appreciating the sympathy of those in her surroundings, doing everything possible to avoid being victimised again and only expressing feelings such as rage and a desire for revenge in moderation. In addition, the crime victim should have been sufficiently cautious prior to the victimisation incident, should have taken responsibility for her life and should not have exposed herself to risks (Garland, 2001). The crime victim is furthermore most commonly described as a woman, since the characteristics that are associated with crime victims are traditionally linked to femininity, whereas the offender is linked to characteristics associated with masculinity (Burcar, 2005; Pettersson, 2003). If the crime victim does not live up to the expectations associated with an ideal victim, there will be less sympathy from those in her environment and, in addition, her chances of receiving criminal injuries compensation are likely to be reduced (Miers, 1990; Christie 1986). By contrast, a crime victim who lives up to the expected victim role is a victim who has earned the attention of society, she is a “deserving victim” (Goodey, 2005:124). In the crime policy field, the crime victim is contrasted with the offender in terms of characteristics, experiences and needs (Tham, Rönneling and Rytterbro, 2011; Tham, 2006). The symbolic, ideal offender is described with distaste as a threat to society (Melossi, 2000). He is portrayed as being big, strong, evil and a stranger, which means that he is deserving of the antipathy of his surroundings (Christie, 1986). 3

In crime policy, offenders are described as constituting a threat to society (Andersson 2002). Offenders are viewed as a dangerous and they are clearly defined as a group of individuals who are distinctly different from ‘us’ (Garland, 1996, Lernestedt, 2012); and they are viewed as having chosen to commit offences (Boutellier, 2004). Bauman (1997) argues that all societies have a need to set ‘the others’ apart – those individuals who do not fit in. Cohen (1972) has described how politicians, the media, the police and other experts may work together to portray a group of individuals as dangerous and as constituting a threat to the moral fibre and interests of society. This contributes to a polarisation of people into the categories ‘us’ and ‘them’ and creates stereotyped folk devils (Cohen, 1972:11-12). Organised crime constitutes a prominent example of this kind of moral panic, in which, as Levi (2009:48) argues, the criminals are made into scapegoats. Politicians have increasingly come to describe offenders as ‘scoundrels’ rather than ‘poor things’, argues Tham (2012). The opposites ‘poor thing’ and ‘scoundrel’ were first employed by Sahlin (1994) to describe how the clients of public sector agencies are portrayed. These opposites can be seen as related to one another in the same way as the contrasting categories of the crime victim and the offender. Both ‘poor things’ and ‘scoundrels’ are associated with stereotyped characteristics and specific patterns of behaviour. Sahlin describes the categories as “two mutually exclusive and illusory images, which are at the same time prerequisites for one another, so that the one cannot be understood or survive without the other” (ibid. p. 36). For offenders, who are regarded as possessing fixed, negative characteristics and as being immutable, the only remaining possibility is exclusion from society (Bauman, 1997). Imprisonment can be viewed as constituting the most radical form of exclusion. By means of imprisonment, the offender is also locked into the role of ‘the other’ and is at the same time ascribed a major responsibility for his own situation (Bauman, 1998). The origins of exclusory crime policy can thus be found in “the logic of polarization”, in the division into an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ (Bauman, 1997:34).

When crime victims are offenders There are many instances, however, where the roles of crime victim and offender coincide and where ‘us’ cannot be distinguished from ‘them’. The group of crime victims in fact includes a large proportion of offenders, as many offenders are exposed to crime (Farrall, 2005; Farrall and Maltby, 2003; Edgar, O’Donnell and Martin, 2003). Individuals sentenced to prison are exposed to particularly high levels of criminal victimisation in the same way as other weak and vulnerable groups, such as the homeless, drug users, prostitutes and those suffering from mental illness (Litzén, 2004; Edgar, O’Donnell and Martin, 2003; Lander et al. 2002). Levels of victimisation are also higher among probationers than they are among the rest of the population (Farrall and Maltby, 2003). Offenders may, however, find it difficult to view themselves as crime victims despite extensive victimisation experiences. Combining the criminal role with the role of a victim is challenging (Heber, 2012a). To summarise, a majority of studies based on a wide variety of populations, across cultures, and using a range of analytical techniques, have found support for the existence of the victimoffender overlap (Jennings, Piquero and Reingle, 2012). The overlap has also been noted in Swedish studies (Heber, 2012a; 2012b). Consequently, people involved in delinquent lifestyles experience a higher risk of victimization (Lauritsen, Sampson & Laub, 1991). If the individuals’ lifestyles do not change, delinquents continue to be exposed to crime; i.e. “once an offender, always a victim” (Farrall, 2005: 158). 4

The term victim-offenders is however used inconsistently and with varying meanings in different research studies. Chronologically, victimhood may proceed offending, but offending can also lead to victimisation (Wittebrood and Nieuwbeerta, 1999; Farrall and Maltby, 2003). The group of victim-offenders can also include individuals who become both offenders and crime victims on one and the same occasion The question is nevertheless, how are victimoffenders described and handled within the field of crime policy, and do politicians even address the issue of offenders who are also crime victims?

Swedish Crime Policy and crime trends Victims in general are given a high political priority in Sweden, and there is a very strong victim movement that has succeeded in placing the victim high up on the public agenda (Tham, Rönneling & Rytterbro; 2011). Further, the number of references to the crime victim has increased since the 1990s in both the crime policy field and the media (Demker et al., 2008). The crime victim is also given a very prominent role in the field of legal policy (Persson, 2006). In crime policy, the crime victim may serve as a rhetorical tool used by political parties as a means of advancing various party interests (Demker & Duus-Otterström, 2009). The fundamental point of departure for Swedish crime victim legislation is the woman who has been subjected to assault by a male partner (Persson 2006). This is linked to the work of the powerful feminist movement of the 1970s, which raised the profile of the crime victim and exposed women’s experiences of crime to the public gaze (Tham, 2001; Burcar 2005). The human rights discourse and discourses portraying victimization as a threat to public health have also played an important role in crime victim policy (Tham, 2001). The focus on women and children as victims started with a public and political debate following an inquiry that reviewed the legislation on sexual offending. A large number of criminalizations followed during the 1970s and 1980s that were intended to protect women and children from (sexual) violence (Tham, Rönneling & Rytterbro, 2011). The crime policy bills of this period were for the most part influenced by the liberal feminist movement, whereas during the 1990s, bills were inspired by the radical feminist movement. The latter explained men’s violence against women in terms of a social power structure in which women are subordinate to men (Ericson, 2005). During the 2000s a parallel crime policy discourse to that of men’s violence against women emerged: the criminality of immigrants. The immigrant discourse, as expressed by right-wing populists, argued that the topic of immigrants’ crime had been under-studied as a results of its sensitivity, which researchers have argued is not in fact the case (Estrada, Pettersson & Shannon, 2012). The political discussion of how to provide the crime victim with redress has largely focused on economic compensation (Persson, 2004). The Swedish Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority (Brottsoffermyndigheten) works in the interests of crime victims by awarding them compensation but also by disseminating information about victimhood and by supporting victimological research (SOU 2004). Two-thirds of the research financed by the Authority is focused on women or children as crime victims (Andersson, 2011). As the focus on the crime victim has expanded over recent decades, many crime victim organizations have been established to provide victims with practical help and emotional 5

support. These include the Victim Support Association (Brottsofferjourernas Riksförbund) which has approximately 100 local support centers. The organisation emphasises the crime victims’ need for help rather than demanding harsher punishments for offenders (af Sandeberg and Ljungwald, 2012, Burcar, 2005). To specifically help female victims, there are also two large, national associations of women’s shelters that have a total of 240 local support centers (Roks, 2012; SKR, 2012). All of the above mentioned organizations focus their efforts first and foremost on women exposed to relationship violence and on children who are the victims of crime (af Sandeberg and Ljungwald, 2012; Andersson 2011, Tham, 2004). Lately however, the political construct of the ‘crime victim’ has been broadened, and more groups have come to be included in the definition when victims are discussed in crime policy. Examples include witnesses and the relatives of crime victims (Lernestedt, 2012; Tham, 2001) Along with the crime victim, the offender occupies a central position in the crime policy rhetoric. There is a cross-party consensus among politicians that the offender should face increasingly severe punishment since society must be protected from dangerous individuals (Demker and Duus-Otterström, 2009). Security, organized crime and proactive punishment are central themes in the debate (Tham, 2012). Increasingly long sentences were meted out by the courts during the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century in Sweden, but this levelled off during the latter part of the decade (The Swedish Prison and Probation Service 2012). The increasing punitiveness and the growing prison population witnessed in Sweden was affected by, amongst other things, Sweden’s entry into the EU, periods of centre-right government, and welfare cuts that, in turn, constitute a manifestation of a new direction in politics (Pratt, 2008). Demker and Duus-Otterström (2009) argue that the move towards greater punitiveness in the Swedish justice system was mainly the result of a trend towards a more individualistic society, which is also visible across the rest of the western world. The dismantling of the welfare state, together with the neoliberal shift in society at large, has led to a strong identification with the crime victim and to the exclusion of the offender (Tham, Rönneling and Rytterbro; 2011). In conclusion, “everybody is for, and nobody is against the crime victim” (Tham, 2006:156). Viewed from an international perspective, Sweden is a fairly safe country and according to international crime victim surveys her crime rate lies at around the average for European countries in general (Westfelt, 2009). Violent crime has not increased over the past 30 years in Sweden, and the murder rate has even declined according to various sources (Estrada, Pettersson and Shannon, 2012). Violence requiring the victim to seek medical attention was reported by slightly less than one per cent of the inhabitants of Sweden in 2010 (Statistics Sweden, 2012). As regards organised crime, the research base in Sweden remains rather limited. Researchers have argued, however, that organised crime in Sweden is not characterised by hierarchical organisations but rather by crimes committed in the context of temporary networks (Korsell and Larsson 2010; SOU, 2000). Despite stable crime rates, politicians and the media describe crime as a serious social problem that has to be dealt with, often by resorting to harsher punishments (Andersson 2002, Estrada, Pettersson and Shannon, 2012).

Methodology The material employed in this study comprises a sample of legislative proposals (bills) in the crime policy field submitted by elected members of the Swedish parliament (Riksdagen) during the period 2005–2010, a total of six years. This period was chosen in order to include 6

as many recent bills as possible in the analysis. The year 2005 was selected as a starting-point because it constituted a peak in the level of legislative activity relating to victims and offenders.1 The sample includes private members bills, bills submitted by political parties and bills submitted in response to existing proposals (‘follow-up bills’). The bills examined may thus express the crime policy positions of individual politicians in the form of private members bills or the positions of political parties in the form of the bills submitted by parties. ‘Follow-up bills’ may be formulated by both individual members and parties and relate to proposals that have already been submitted to parliament e.g. by the government (Ericson, 2005; Demker and Duus-Otterström 2009; Sannerstedt, 1989). The sample includes all bills linked to proposals made to Parliament by the Parliamentary Committee on Justice, since these relate to matters concerning the police, the prosecution service, the courts, the prison and probation system, the Penal Code and the Code of Judicial Procedure (Sannerstedt, 1989). In order to limit the number of bills examined, the sample was first restricted to those which included the both Swedish term for crime victim(s) and three of the Swedish terms for offender/perpetrator. The sampling procedure’s objective was to provide a basis for examining how politicians describe crime victims and offenders, with a particular focus on situations where there is an overlap between these two categories. To be included in the final sample, therefore, a bill was required to mention both groups in the same paragraph on at least one occasion. The sampling procedure produced a total of 29 bills, of which two were excluded since three of the bills were identical, but had been submitted in different years. A further three bills were excluded because they did not include any description of offenders or crime victims but rather only referred to the two terms. Thus the final sample comprised 24 bills, of which the majority (14) had been submitted to Parliament in 2005. Only three of the 24 bills had been written by politicians from the left-wing (including centre-left) political block, while the remaining 21 had been written by politicians from the right-wing (including centre-right) block. See the Appendix for more information on the bills included in the sample (Table 2) and for an overview of the parties’ ideologies and political positions (Table 3). The bills thus provide a picture of how the three groups – victims, offenders and victimoffenders – were handled in Swedish crime policy, primarily in the course of 2005 by politicians from parties of the centre-right. The study does not aspire to depict a development over time, but rather to analyze political portrayals of the three groups over a short, and recent period. The analysis of the bills has taken the form of a thematic analysis, which has the objective of distinguishing a range of recurrent subjects in a text (Ezzy, 2002). In this study, the following overarching themes have constituted a particular focus for the analysis: crime victims, offenders, victim-offenders and responses. I then read through the text segments linked to each theme, and considered how the theme might be structured in order to address the article’s objectives and research questions. The themes were thus broken down into subcategories, which I feel together serve as a means of summarising the themes presented in the article.


Number of bills by year (the bills between 2005 and 2010 were analyzed): 2000: 5 bills; 2001: 12; 2002: 5; 2003: 9; 2004: 10; 2005: 15; 2006: 7; 2007: 3; 2008: 1; 2009: 1; 2010: 2.


Results Crime victims An innocent woman or child in the need for redress In the crime policy bills examined, it is first and foremost the group women who appear as crime victims. These women have been exposed to relationship violence, rape, people trafficking, stalking, honour-violence and have been duped into prostitution. Children also appear in the bills, sometimes as crime victims in their own right, at other times primarily being linked together with the women and the latter group’s victimisation. The children are exclusively depicted as victims of violence in the home, perpetrated by an adult, male family member. The described reactions of the women and children who have been victimised are quite diverse but for the most part passive: they are violated, unsafe, afraid, shocked, under pressure, powerless, frustrated, suffering and they feel desperate, uneasy, insulted and worried. Several of the bills specifically emphasise that the crime victim has been violated and is insecure. The victims of different types of crime are described in the bills as reacting in similar ways. The Christian Democrats write the following in a bill entitled “Twenty demands for the protection of women” from 2005: “The fact is that when it comes to the protection of women the trend has been going in completely the wrong direction. More and more women are being violated. More and more women are feeling unsafe. Last year, 20 percent more cases of assaults against women were reported than in 1995. During the same period, rapes increased by 54 percent, and the number of cases of sexual molestation by 63 percent. It is now time to move from words to action.” (Bill 2005 Ju 306, Christian Democrats) According to the politicians writing the bills, the crime victims’ reactions mean that they have special needs. They need support, assistance, acknowledgement and above all, redress. The crime victims not only need this, but also have a right to it. In a Liberal Party motion, the politicians write the following: “When an individual is exposed to crime, confidence in society is disrupted. This feeling becomes reinforced if the individual meets with negative treatment or disinterest and ignorance in the agencies of the justice system. Being treated with respect, understanding and being given acknowledgement instead reinforces a sense of redress and of trust for society. This is important in order to avoid the crime victim feeling violated twice over – first by the offender and then by society.” (Bill 2005 Ju 381, Liberal Party) Extended victimhood Other categories of crime victims are mentioned in the bills in addition to women and children. The Christian Democrats, for example, express a desire to give victims’ family members the status of victims: 8

“It is reasonable in the case of serious crime to view family members of the crime victim as indirect crime victims, who have a right to support and help. The right to injured party counsel should be extended to include certain surviving relatives of the individual exposed to crime even though these cannot be regarded as complainants on the basis of existing legislation” (Bill 2005 Ju 483, Christian Democrats) Witnesses to crime are also portrayed as crime victims in several bills, and their fears and need for protection are emphasised. There are bills in which citizens, schoolchildren, police, public figures, men, and anyone and everyone are defined as crime victims. The Liberal Party even attempts to establish business owners as crime victims by drawing attention to the fact that business owners are invisible in the context of the crime victim debate and by contrasting this with their exposure to crime: “In Social Democratic Sweden, business owners who have been exposed to crime have been forgotten. The business owner is often portrayed as a putative criminal, and rarely or never as a crime victim. A striking example of this can be found in the government’s letter of regulation to the police in 2005, in which not a single word is said about crimes directed at business owners. (…) Crimes against businesses must be taken seriously, irrespective of how small the crime is.” (Bill 2005 Ju 379, Liberal Party) Offenders A pitiable ‘poor thing’ When offenders are described, distinctions are made between two different types of offenders: ‘poor things’ and ‘scoundrels’. Individuals suffering from mental illness, drug abusers and women are described pitiably as poor things. The causes of their offending are viewed as being, amongst other things, insecure childhood conditions, poor care provision and an illconsidered process of release into the community. The Moderate Party describe the situation of prison inmates, for example: The situation in most prisons is problematic. Drug abuse is widespread and the inmates are often forced into gang-like constellations in order to cope with everyday life. The climate in the country’s prisons has become tougher. The inmates feel worse and the prisons are becoming more unsafe. Fewer prison officers per inmate impairs the officers’ ability to prevent trouble. Levels of security become worse for both inmates and staff. (Bill 2006 Ju 28, Moderate Party) ‘Poor things’ are depicted in the bills as in major need of support, they have social needs, they are not given support and they feel bad. This group also have difficulty coping with their everyday lives, they are broken people and they live in disadvantaged conditions. A ruthless, foreign scoundrel In addition to descriptions of the offender as a poor thing, there are also descriptions of the offender as a ruthless scoundrel who chooses to commit offences. These ruthless scoundrels are indifferent, have different norms and values and they are well-organised and altogether more professional. They function in networks on the margins of society and they exploit 9

women and children. It is unclear from the bills why the politicians think these offenders choose to commit crimes, but it is obvious that these scoundrels are not poor things. Furthermore, criminal gangs are frightening and provoke fear in both witnesses and the public: These gangs commit crimes, often serious and obvious crimes, but those who live near to them will not testify against them, out of loyalty, or out of a fear of the consquences. Often the reputation of the power of the gang reaches people before this power is actually put into practice, for which reason the threats are almost always implicit. But over recent years such threats have increasingly been made explicit and become public knowledge. (Bill 2009 Ju 343, Christian Democrats) There is also a view that individual offenders, not only organised criminals, can be ruthless, calculating and indifferent to the crime victim. A politician from the Moderate Party provides us with an example, and refers to a representative of the Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority, who had been cited in the tabloid newspaper Aftonbladet (AB): If crime victims and offenders are agreed about the size of the compensation, the court then specifies this amount. There is some psychology involved in this. The offender wishes to show the court that he feels remorse and agrees to all demands. He does this fully aware that it is not in fact going to cost him a penny. But he knows that a remorseful and generous offender may appear in a somewhat better light when it is time to start talking about a sentence. This is according to Per Rubing, head of criminal injuries compensation at the Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority in AB 16/9 05. (Bill 2005 Ju 252, Moderate Party) The ruthless scoundrel category also includes foreign men with “different values” (implicitly meaning non-Swedish values). These men commit acts of violence in the family and/or commit offences and claim to have done so because the victim has violated the offender’s honour, i.e. acts of honour-related violence. The foreign offenders have failed to adopt Swedish values and instead commit offences, because of this they should be punished severely. The Moderate Party write the following: We Moderates want to tighten the rules for deportation. A foreign citizen who is sentenced to a more serious sanction than a fine shall be deported unless there a special grounds for not doing so. Thus deportation will occur irrespective of the seriousness of the offence and of whether there is a risk for continued offending. Further, the existing restrictions should be tightened so that less consideration is given to the individual’s family situation and living conditions. We want to draw attention to the way in which excessive family-law related considerations risk worsening the situation of the crime victim, which is particularly true for those crime victims who have been subjected to honour-related crime. (Bill 2005 Ju 410, Moderate Party) There is a tendency in the bills to show less tolerance in relation to crimes committed by foreigners, by comparison with the crimes of Swedes. Foreign, criminal men are viewed as a homogeneous group that should be punished severely in order to protect the crime victim, despite the fact that this can have a very negative effect on the men’s families.


Victim-Offenders Offenderhood dominates When the bills describe the offender as a passive poor thing, they also portray this group as having been exposed to different types of crime; this is particularly clear in connection with women and girls. Victim-offenders are not given a voice, however, and their reactions to the crimes to which they have been exposed are not described. Thus they differ from authentic, innocent crime victims who are in need of redress. The Liberal Party write the following on the subject of the inmates of the prison system: Women often have more serious substance abuse problems, a partner who is criminal and/or a substance abuser. Many also have children who have been taken into care, but are negative about the possibilities of being able to keep in touch with their children and their family. Several of these women have been assaulted by their partners and have witnessed or themselves been exposed to violence or sexual assaults as children. (Bill 2005 Ju 529, Liberal Party) Thus knowledge, measures and therapy are important for these women, in the same was as for other women who are crime victims. Offenders who are also crime victims are thus included among the group of pitiable poor things. They are described as offenders who have been exposed to crime, not as crime victims who have committed offences. In chronological terms, their victimhood precedes their offenderhood, although there are a few exceptions to this. Youth at risk and youth as risks One opinion throughout the bills examined, is that exposure to crime can lead crime victims to seek revenge and thus to themselves become offenders. First and foremost, however, this appears to apply to youths and one politician from the Moderate Party writes: I feel that all young crime victims should be offered the support and the help that a support centre would provide, in part in order to help those who are exposed to crime, in part in order to reduce the risk that today’s crime victims become tomorrow’s offenders. (Bill 2010 Ju 346, Moderate Party). Liberal Party politicians write similarly that “There is a risk that youths who are exposed to crime risk going on to themselves commit offences; this vicious circle must be broken.” (Bill 2005 Ju 533, Liberal Party). Thus youths who are exposed to crime should not be given redress first and foremost because they have been violated and feel unsafe, but rather in order to prevent the possibility of revenge and of their becoming offenders themselves. References specifically to youths include isolated examples of the victim-offender overlap, without the role of the offender necessarily dominating. The prerequisite for this, however, is that victimhood has preceded the offending. If on the other hand the youths commit offences without having themselves been exposed to crime, then this constitutes a problem: “Young people who commit offences are a real social problem” (Bill 2006 Ju 39, Moderate Party). In sum, youth ate both at risk and, at the same time, seen as risks.


Responses New threats and more crime victims One thing that was striking reading through the bills was the way they depicted the crime problem and trends in Sweden at large. According to the bills, crime has become worse in a number of ways: new threats have emerged, the people committing offences are becoming younger and the crimes committed are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Furthermore, Sweden is way behind in the fight to combat crime, particularly organised crime. Things have been going in the wrong direction, assaults have increased, other violent crimes and rapes have also increased, the trade in human beings for prostitution is a growing problem as well as the number of drug addicts. References to crime victims occur frequently in connection with descriptions of these societal trends. The bills argue that the crime victim must be safeguarded and the victim perspective must be clearly visible in responses towards crime. A powerful response against all types of offenders Against the background of the societal trends described in the bills, it becomes important to take powerful measures to combat crime. Both implicit and explicit demands for more severe sanctions are consistently expressed in the bills, for example in this bill from the Moderate Party: Serious attacks on people’s health, liberty and property must be punished more severely than they are today. Recidivism must lead to a tangible increase in the sentence. Our proposals on a reformed sanctioning system will make the necessary developments possible in this respect. (Bill 2005 Ju 410, Moderate Party) It is considered important that the punishments are not perceived as being too light by the public or the crime victims, since this represents “a mockery of the crime victim” (Bill 2006 Ju 31, Christian Democrats). It is also unjust and may damage the public’s confidence in the justice system. Harsher punishments are thus motivated by reference to societal trends, increases in crime, insecurity and (increasing numbers of) crime victims. When the offender is part of an organised group or network, judges should not show any particular consideration for the offender since that latter is viewed as not having shown any consideration for the crime victim. Ruthless offenders are to be punished in order to protect crime victims, witnesses and the public. It is not only the ruthless offender that constitutes the focus for these measures but also offenders who are poor things, including offenders who are crime victims, are all comprised in the discussions focused on stiffer punishments. Despite the fact that the offender may be deserving of pity, he must nonetheless make amends in relation to both the crime victim and the state, and obtain an insight into what he has done, which will be achieved through punishment. The punishment serves to restore the balance between the crime victim and the offender, and between the offender and the state. Knowledge, empathy and concrete help for the crime victim The politicians writing the bills do not only propose the powerful responses described above, however. Other types of measures are described just as often. Of these other measures, the majority are focused on the innocent, ideal crime victim. It is first and foremost in the context of contacts with the justice system that the bills say the crime victim should be given more 12

support, and this support should take the form of greater understanding, better treatment and professional help such as access to counsellors. The Moderate Party proposes the following: Those who are exposed to crime must be met with knowledge, empathy and concrete help. The crime victim must be given help throughout the entire justice system: from the reporting of the offence through to the trial. Those who do not get to see their offence report make it to trial must be given a clear explanation. (Bill 2005 Ju 410, Moderate Party) In certain cases, the offender may also be covered by these ‘softer’ measures, but in these instances, this coverage primarily occurs at the structural level. Such examples may take the form of improved prison release measures, rehabilitation programmes, policy measures to improve levels of integration and labour market measures. On the whole, however, the politicians propose that offenders should be punished, and crime victims should be helped.

Discussion The crime victim is described inclusively as one of us, ‘the good guys’, whereas the offender is excluded and portrayed as bad. Between the two extremes there are depictions in which victimhood and offenderhood overlap. Table 1 summarises the categorisations of ideal victims, ideal offenders and victim-offenders that are presented in the bills, along with the groups included within these categorisations (Who?). The table also summarises how the categories are described (How?), the responses proposed in relation to the different categories (What?) and the motivations for these responses (Why?). The contents of the table are expanded upon below. / TABLE 1. ABOUT HERE /

The extensive descriptions of the crime victims’ reactions and feelings are permeated by a clear sense of understanding. Since all law-abiding citizens can be exposed to crime, “victims R us” (Stanko, 2000: 13). This also produces an inclusive victimhood as a result of the underlying assumption that “it could have been me”. Crime victims are portrayed in the bills as blameless, in relation to their victimisation, which is in line with other descriptions of the social role of the crime victim (e.g. Miers 1990; Christie, 1986). Thus the crime victim symbolises the good, innocent citizen. This makes the role of the victim a particularly desirable one (but naturally not the victimization per se). This is shown by the attempts to define new groups as victims. However, the role of women as crime victims, together with children, still occupies a very central place in the bills, which has also been shown in other studies (Tham, Rönneling & Rytterbro, 2011; Ericson, 2005). This can very probably be explained by the influence of the feminist movement on crime policy in Sweden over recent decades. Understanding is expressed for the situation of the crime victim, which also means that the measures proposed for crime victims involve providing them with help. There is however a fundamental requirement that the crime victim is innocent and blameless; a prudent citizen 13

(Garland, 2001). True victims can never have committed offences and hence, victimoffenders cannot be included in the ideal victim category. However, while the descriptions of crime victims are homogeneous throughout, the politicians describe two different categories of offender: victim-offenders and ideal offenders, or ‘poor things’ and ‘scoundrels’ (see Sahlin, 1994) The scoundrel corresponds to the ideal offender, and may be viewed as the antithesis of the ideal victim (Christie, 1986). The scoundrel is described as ruthless, frightening, foreign and organised, with this latter characteristic making them appear particularly dangerous. In this way, they represent evil. No sympathy or understanding is expressed for the scoundrels. Perhaps the discourse of the foreign scoundrel in these, mainly right-wing, bills may in part have been influenced by the populist parties’ descriptions of criminality (Estrada, Pettersson & Shannon, 2012). Poor things, on the other hand, constitute an overlap category of victim-offenders. This group includes mainly females, at least when gender is mentioned explicitly. When poor things’ life conditions and characteristics are portrayed they are viewed as victims, whereas they are viewed as offenders when the bills discuss the responses that should be focused on them. Offenderhood dominates over victimhood, which means that poor things are seen as offenders who have been exposed to crime, not as crime victims who have committed offences. Youths constitute a further manifestation of the victim-offender overlap that is depicted in the bills. Children are traditionally described as a weak group and are easily sorted into the crime victim category since they are linked together with women and their characteristics (e.g. Tham, 2001). By contrast, youths tend to be seen as a threat and are easily assigned the role of folk devils (Cohen, 1972). In the bills, youths emerge as a special group balanced between victimhood and offenderhood, as well as childhood and adulthood. It would appear that youths cannot be regarded as being included among ‘us’ until they have grown up and shown that they can refrain from involvement in offending. They cannot be categorised as ideal victims even when they have been exposed to crime, since there is always a risk that they will take revenge and commit offences themselves. The measures described in relation to youths, on the other hand, proceed from an assumption that they must be saved from becoming scoundrels. When responses to offenders are discussed, victim-offenders and offenders (or ‘poor things’ and ‘scoundrels’) are dealt with in the same way. Both groups are to be punished, and they are to be punished severely. This also represents a manifestation of the view that Boutellier (2004:83) has referred to as “the responsible offender”. In this study, the responsible offender refers not only to a man who is responsible for his crimes, but also to someone who should be held accountable for the negative trends in society at large. In the crime policy bills, all types of offenders including victim-offenders are responsible for their individual criminal acts. They are also seen as responsible for a societal trend that is described as being very negative, with rising levels of crime and public insecurity. On the basis of the research, this negative trend appears primarily to be a political construction involving alarmist tendencies, and it thus resembles Cohen’s (1972) descriptions of moral panics. In the bills, ideal offenders as well as victim-offenders are ascribed responsibility for ensuring that that the crime victim is given redress, but they are also to atone for their guilt in relation to the state, in relation to “us”. Redress for the crime victim is only possible through severe punishment of both poor things and scoundrels.


Conclusions In summary, at least five conclusions can be drawn: 1) The ideal crime victim attracts society’s sympathy and help, which turns the victim into a justification that can be used by politicians to promote harsher punishments. As a result, politicians try to include different groups as victims and to thereby expand the concept. 2) Once a person has committed an offence, the victim label is no longer available. Victim-offenders can still be pitied, but when it comes to discussions about sentencing, there is no distinction between them and ideal offenders in the bills; all types of offenders need to be punished severely. 3) Youth symbolize unpredictability and even as crime victims they are not included in the ideal victim label since they might commit crimes and “become tomorrow’s offenders” (Bill 2010 Ju 346, Moderate Party). The descriptions of young people found in the bills are influenced by the notion of victim-offender overlap, since the youth are treated as potential criminals even when they are crime victims. 4) Ideal criminals are described as ruthless, foreign strangers who bring new threats to Sweden in the form of organized crime or non-Swedish values expressed as honourrelated violence. These foreign criminals exploit and/or harm women and children. This discourse includes rhetoric from both the feminist movement (violence against women) and populist right-wing parties (the criminal immigrant). 5) Punishment is the responsibility of politicians, but politicians do not assume responsibility for the negative trends in society at large. Instead, the causes of negative societal trends, as well as of people’s fear of crime, are located firmly at the door of offenders. The future outlook is therefore both positive and negative. On the positive side, new victim groups may emerge who might serve to broaden the restrictive interpretation of the role of the victim and result in the inclusion of different types of victims. The crime victim label, however, cannot include offenders or victim-offenders. Hence, on the negative side, offenders and victim-offenders may become even more excluded and the targets of increasingly severe punishments, since there will be more of ‘us’ and fewer of ‘them’; more good versus bad.


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Table Table 1. Crime policy descriptions of victims, offenders and victim-offenders. “Bad”= Them

”Good”= Us

Ideal Victims Who? Crime Victims How? Understanding What? Help Why? Innocent

Victim-Offenders Youth At risk Save Risks


Poor things Pitiable Punish Responsible

Ideal Offenders Scoundrels Ruthless


Table 2. Crime policy bills from 2005–2010 included in the analysis. Year and bill number: 2005 Ju252

2005 Ju306

2005 Ju358 2005 Ju379 2005 Ju381 2005 Ju410 2005 Ju483

2005 Ju496

2005 Ju529 2005 Ju532

2005 Ju533 2005 Ju478

2005 Ju543

2005 Ju562

2006 Ju28

2006 Ju31

2006 Ju39

2006 Ju41 2006 Ju312 2007 Ju267

Title of the bill: Skadestånd vid våldsbrott [Compensation in connection with violent offences] Tjugo krav för kvinnofrid [Twenty demands for the protection of women] Polisen i medborgarnas tjänst [Police in the service of the citizens] Brott mot företag [Crimes against businesses] Liberalt fokus på brottsoffer [Liberal focus on cime victims] Brottsbekämpning [Combating crime] Brottsoffer [Crime victims] Stärkande av brottsoffrens ställning [Strengthening the position of the crime victim] Nystart för kriminalvården [A new start for the corrections system] Trygghet mot brott [Security against crime] Bekämpande av ungdomsbrottsligheten [Combating youth crime] Unga brottslingar [Young offenders] Förändringar i straff- och processrätten [Changes in the penal and legal process law] En human kriminalvård [Humane correctional treatment] En modernare kriminalvårdslag [A more modern Correctional Treatment Act] En modernare kriminalvårdslag [A more modern Correctional Treatment Act] Ingripanden mot unga lagöverträdare [Interventions against young offenders] Ingripanden mot unga lagöverträdare [Interventions against young offenders] Brottsoffer [Crime victims] Att leva med skyddad identitet

Political party:


Moderate Party

Sten Tolgfors

Christian Democrats

Maria Larsson et al.

Moderate Party Liberal Party

Beatrice Ask et al. Anna Grönlund Krantz & Torkild Strandberg

Liberal Party

Johan Pehrson et al.

Moderate Party Christian Democrats

Fredrik Reinfeldt et al. Olle Sandahl et al.

Liberal Party

Nina Lundström

Liberal Party

Johan Pehrson et al.

Centre Party

Johan Linander et al.

Liberal Party

Lars Leijonborg et al.

Christian Democrats

Peter Althin et al.

Liberal Party

Johan Pehrson et al.

Green Party

Maria Wetterstrand et al.

Moderate Party

Beatrice Ask et al.

Christian Democrats

Peter Althin et al.

Moderate Party

Beatrice Ask et al.

Christian Democrats Left Party Moderate Party

Peter Althin et al. Lars Ohly et al. Magdalena Andersson


2007 Ju433

2009 Ju343

2010 Ju346 2010 Ju361

[Living with a protected identity] Stärkt skydd för barn, ungdomar och kvinnor [Improved protection for children, youths and women] Sekretessbelagd identitet vid vittnesmål i domstol [Protected identity in connection with testimony in court] Socialtjänstens närvaro på polisstationer [The presence of the social services at police stations] Unga brottslingar [Young offenders]

Social Democratic Party

Thomas Bodström et al.

Christian Democrats

Ingemar Vänerlöv

Moderate Party

Helena Bouveng Otto von Arnold & Yvonne Andersson

Christian Democrats


Table 3. The Swedish political parties represented in the bills. Political party:


Political position:

Moderate Party

Liberal Conservatism


Christian Democrats


Liberal Party

Christian Democracy, Social Conservatism Liberalism

Centre Party

Liberalism, Agrarianism


Green Party

Green politics


Swedish Social Democratic Party

Social Democracy


Left Party

Democratic Socialism, Feminism



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