The judicial system

The judicial system is normally taken to comprise the agencies responsible for ensuring the rule of law and legal security in a country. The courts form the backbone of the this system. Agencies for crime prevention and investigation, including the Swedish Police Service, the Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, the Swedish National Economic Crimes Bureau and the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, are also regarded as part of the judicial system. Other public agencies, such as the National Board of Forensic Medicine and the Swedish Enforcement Authority, also have tasks within or linked to the judicial system.

Fundamental laws and the Instrument of Government
The rights and freedoms secured to persons in Sweden are protected primarily by three fundamental laws: the Instrument of Government, the Freedom of the Press Act and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression. The Instrument of Government establishes that public power shall be exercised with respect for the equal worth of all and for the freedom and dignity of the private person.

Independence of the judicial system
The independence of the judicial system is guaranteed in the Instrument of Government. The courts play a central role in the protection of the rights of private persons in Sweden. The legal remedies of the Swedish judicial system are designed to protect human rights. Legal proceedings are usually decided by general courts and general administrative courts and, to some extent, by administrative authorities.

Who supervises the authorities?
It is crucial that authorities comply with laws and ordinances to maintain public confidence in the public administration, and ultimately in democracy. The possibility of appealing a public authority’s decision to a general administrative court means that the public authorities’ application of the law is subject to supervision by the courts. The judicial examination by the courts also serves to create case law that the public authorities are obliged to follow. For other reasons as well, it is important to have control over the way in which public authorities fulfil their duties. Such control is exercised by the Parliamentary Ombudsmen, the Chancellor of Justice and the central administrative authorities.

The Parliamentary Ombudsmen and the Chancellor of Justice
On behalf of the Riksdag, the Parliamentary Ombudsmen (known as the Ombudsmen for Justice) are responsible for ensuring that the bodies involved in public administration comply with laws and other provisions and otherwise fulfil their duties.

The Parliamentary Ombudsmen respond to complaints from the public, but can also initiate their own investigations. Correspondingly, the Chancellor of Justice, who is the Government’s supreme ombudsman, is responsible for scrutinising the bodies involved in public administration on behalf of the Government. The public can also turn to the Chancellor of Justice with complaints. In addition to this supervisory role, the Chancellor of Justice also examines claims for damages directed at the state. Neither the Parliamentary Ombudsmen nor the Chancellor of Justice can review or modify the decisions of another authority or court.

The central administrative authorities
The National Police Board, the Swedish Prosecution Authority and the Swedish Prison and Probation Service monitor that activities within the areas of their jurisdiction are carried out in accordance with the instructions given by the Riksdag and the Government. They also examine the efficiency of operations and their compliance with the principles of the rule of law.

Read the Ministry of Justice's fact sheet about the Swedish judicial system