THE CHILD, THE FAMILY AND THE YOUNG OFFENDER—SWEDISH STYLE (1973)

DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2230.1973.tb01387.x
AuthorJ. Temkin
Publication Date01 Nov 1973
THE
MODERN
LAW
REVIEW
Volume
36
November
1973
No.
6
EDITORIAL BOARD
PROPESSOR
S.
A.
de
Smith, who
is
retiring from the Committee,
has accepted an invitation from the Committee to join the Editorial
Board. Professor
de
Smith has been a member of the Committee of
the
Review
for very many years, and was for a long time Secretary
to the
Review.
We
are delighted that he is able to continue his
association with the
Review
as a member of the Board; and we
take the opportunity of wishing him well on his assumption of the
editorship of the
Cambridge
Law
Journal.
THE CHILD, THE FAMILY AND THE YOUNG
OFFENDER-SWEDISH STYLE
(1973)
THE
Children and Young Persons Act
1969
owes much
of
its inspira-
tion to Scandinavian methods of dealing with young offenders. In
view of the current controversy surrounding the
1969
Act
it
would
seem opportune to consider the operation of the equivalent Swedish
legislation.
Whilst in both systems the aim is to minimise the significance
of the criminal act as such in the case of persons under a certain
age, in Sweden traditional positivist criminology has been far more
influential. There child offenders are automatically defined as the
products
of
detrimental psycho-social situations and hence court
proceedings are deemed inappropriate. In England criminology is
treated with some scepticism and the framework remains
a
legal one.
In Sweden, therefore,
it
is the Child Welfare Committee (CWC)-
an administrative body responsible for securing an environment
calculated to promote the well-being of every Swedish child-which
naturally assumes responsibility for children who brush with the law.
The CWCs exist within the structure of local government in
Sweden. Since January
1,
1971,
the number of Swedish municipal-
ities
(kommuner)
has been reduced to
464.
By January
1974
Sweden
mill have about
274
kommuner,
each of which appoints a CWC.
569
VOL.
36
(6)
1
570
THE
MODERN
LAW
REVIEW
VOL.
36
According to the Child Welfare Act
1960
the committee shall have
a Board consisting of at least five members; but generally speaking
there are considerably more and where possible one of them at least
should have legal experience. The members of the Board are all
elected members of the municipal council who happen to be inter-
ested in child welfare matters. Thus the Board consists of local
politicians and the number of representatives of each political party
allowed onto the Board will depend on the proportion of seats each
party won on the municipal council. However, political differences
tend
to
be of no significance within committees dealing with child
welfare. The Board is the central decision-making body in matters
pertaining to child welfare. Attached to it are numerous social
work and administrative departments which feed the Board with
the material necessary to arrive at their decisions. The committees
have two primary functions. The first of these may be described
as a general preventive function.
It
is the duty of every committee,
as laid down by the
1960
Act and previous legislation on the matter,
actively to promote the welfare of all children within the com-
munity. This is largely perceived to be a matter of providing a vast
range of facilities geared towards the successful integration of every
child within the
kommune
and particularly those children who come
from a deficient home background with the hope thereby of prevent-
ing them from seeking deviant alternatives. The other main func-
tion of the committees is to make decisions in specific cases involving
children in respect of whom it is thought necessary to take positive
action; for example, removal into care. Such decisions are finally
made by the Board.
This system has the notable advantage of ensuring that those
persons responsible for child welfare policy at a local level are in
direct contact with specific problem situations within the
kommune.
So
far as decisions made in individual cases are concerned, oppor-
tunities for appeal do exist. Apart from being divided into several
hundred
kommune,
Sweden is also divided into a smaller number
of county administrations
(liinsstyrelser).
Appeal lies from a deci-
sion
of
the Board to the
Lansstyrelser
and thence to the Supreme
Administrative Court
(Regeringsratten).
GENERAL
PREVENTIVE
ACTION
Since a psycho-dynamic analysis of delinquency still tends to be
favoured in child welfare circles, general preventive action is
centred on the family. Thus official recognition and encouragement
of changing family patterns is seen to be of immediate relevance to
delinquency problems and to necessitate appropriate action by the
committees.
The character of Swedish family life is perceived to be under-
going a radical transformation involving a state takeover of erst-
while family functions. This is in large measure due to the vast
endeavours of the Social Democratic Government over the last

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