Aggravated assault

A$AP Rocky is a suspect of ”grov misshandel”, which I think is most closely translated into aggravated assault. This is a serious crime. However, punishment in Sweden is comparatively mild. The minimum punishment for an adult that has committed aggravated assault is 18 months in prison. The maximum is six years in prison. A first time offender will often receive the minimum punishment. Normally, a convicted person serves 2/3 of his or her sentence before parole.

If the prosecutor proceeds with the case it is possible, perhaps also probable, that the indiction would be for assault of the normal degree (misshandel) and not aggravated assault. The punishment for that is prison, up to two years, and in less severe cases a fine or prison for no more than six months.

Self-Defense

As mentioned, the Criminal Code includes a set of rules on justification. According to these rules, otherwise criminal activities will not be considered criminal if – for instance – the act was carried out in self-defense or out of necessity.

In A$AP Rocky’s case the question is whether the artist acted in self-defense. Some movie clips from the events leading up to the situation that is the reason A$AP Rocky is currently in custody have become viral. The impression one gets from these clips, at least the clips I have seen, is that two young men started harassing A$AP and his crew. A$AP and the crew showed an almost angel-like patience with the harassers until they no longer didn’t: A$AP Rocky threw one of young men into the ground and his friends started kicking him.

This it the most common interpretation of the clips, I think. Here, I want to take on the Serious-Lawyer-Hat for a second and stress that a couple of movie clips taken with cell phones will not necessarily show the full picture of the events. They may leave out things. They may be manipulated. Etc. I don’t know. Still, the impression these movies have left on many people have resulted in some harsh critique against the Swedish legal system. If anyone should be arrested it shouldn’t be A$AP Rocky. He was only protecting himself against some unknown abusers. Swedish law is crazy. And now, Travis Scott is never coming here again.

So here is what the Swedish rule on self-defense says: If someone is attacked she (or, in this case, he) may use as much violence as the situation requires to ward off the criminal attack. When someone acts in self-defense she (or he) is exempted from responsibility as long as the act was not ”obviously indefensible”. On top of that, even obviously indefensible reactions may be allowed. Most people are not used to violent situations and do not know how to react against an attack. Therefore the law allows for ”excessive self defense” when the person defending herself/himself could not restrict herself. In Supreme Court practice, this rule has in some cases been given a wide interpretation. There is, however, one thing that the rule never covers. And that is revenge.

Back to A$AP Rocky. He and his crew had a right to defend themselves. This right included a right to use the measure of force necessary as long as it was not obviously unnecessary. Even if it was obviously unnecessary it may be allowed, if the the attacked person (A$AP and the team combined) could not restrict himself.

I don’t, and we don’t, know yet all the details. But the clips from when A$AP Rocky throws one of the young men to the curb, and even more so the kicking that comes thereafter, seem to be difficult to defend under the rule on the justification of self-defense. The self-defense rule does not allow for beating up people because they have acted like assholes, if there is no imminent threat or danger.

Provocations might, however, still come into play later in an assessment of responsibility. It could be an argument for a milder punishment.

Custody

Swedish detention centres (häkten), which is probably the best translation of the jails used for custody before a court has made an assessment of guilt, has been been the subject of criticism for some time, not only by defense lawyers but also by human rights organizations. Still, this is not Midnight Express.

The description of the conditions made by the entertainment news site TMZ – ”shockingly inhumane conditions — feces hurled about and not cleaned up, wretched food and facilities that are not fit for human beings” – has been a source of jokes in Sweden the last week. Especially among those that – wrongly – think that Swedish jails are like spas for criminals. One member of parliament argued that this is actually a good thing. If people from other countries think that our jails are like Bangkok Hilton, they won’t commit any crimes here. I’m not so sure this logic holds.

The attacks against Swedish detention centres are not completely without merit. Sweden has received international criticism for our system of custody of suspects over the years. however, the most important objections to the system – that too many people in custoy commit suicide and that sometimes people have spent years in custody before getting i final decision by the courts – has nothing to do with the current case. There is a bigger discussion around this issue that we need to have, but this case is not the best starting point for that discussion.  

Bail

Sweden doesn’t have a bail system. For good reasons, I think. Just look what happened when Sweden asked the U.K for Julian Assange and he was given bail. That mess is still going on.

Compensation

There has been some discussion on whether A$AP Rocky could be given compensation if he’s not indicted (or if he is but the court finds him not guilty). The answer is: Yes, probably.

Sweden has a special compensation scheme for people that has been held in custody, if they’re not convicted. This is a no-fault solution, so Rocky would not need to prove negligence on account of the police/prosecutor and it covers economic as well as non-economic loss.

There are some restrictions, however, but compensation would probably be awarded if the prosecutor or the court decides to let him out next week.

 

 

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