Thursday, 31 May 2007

Letter to Kathryn Rich from Jacob W.F. Sundberg

Letter to Kathryn Rich, MP from Jacob W.F. Sundberg, Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus

Stockholm, May 24, 2007
Uggelviksgatan 9
S-114 27 Stockholm
Tel. 08-21 62 44, 11 49 89
Fax (+) 46-8-21 38 74

Ms Kathryn Rich, MP
Parliament Buildings
Molesworth Street
Wellington 6160
New Zealand

Fax 0064-4 471 25 51

Dear Ms Rich.

The text of your recent speech in Parliament, given May 16, 2007, was brought to my attention and since it shows a number of misunderstandings of the Swedish legal landscape, I have considered it called for to contribute some clarifications. Hopefully, they will mitigate the application in New Zealand of the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act, and for such reasons I think this letter should be distributed to all the MP:s.

First of all, however, I categorically reject your characterization of Mrs Ruby Harrold- Claesson as a “false expert” and a “fruit loop, to say the least”. You have fallen prey to a smear campaign run in Sweden by some of her adversaries in the social bureaucracy and by their leftist chums in the Faculty of Law in Stockholm, you mention Dr Diesen but there are more of that same breed. On this count, I regret that you have not been aware of my letter of January 11, 2007 to Ms Deborah Coddington which explains the situation, and I feel entitled now to include a copy of that letter for your consideration.

Secondly, as a matter of fact all the examples of bad treatment of children that you mention in your speech seem to be such as fall under the criminalization of assault and battery in Swedish penal law, a long standing criminalization, antedating the legislation of 1979 which you use as a model for the NZ law reform. Consequently, your examples are simply not relevant.

Thirdly, then, what is the 1979 legislation about? The centrepiece is the phrase which I set out in my letter to Ms Coddington “A child may not be exposed to corporal chastisement or other insulting treatment”. You will perhaps recall that when the matter was introduced in Sweden, there was very little Swedish discussion : “Characteristically for Sweden, public debate on the issue was muted” it was said in Time Magazine, April 2, 1979, p. 24. But a parallel to the Swedish legislation was introduced in neighbouring Finland with a very active, Swedish-speaking elite (1983).

This piece of legislation – Act on the custody of children and visiting rights (lag ang. vårdnad om barn och umgängesrätt : FFS 1983 No 361) – has a provision which is almost verbatim a copy of the Swedish provision, but in Finland it released a public discussion among the lawyers responsible for the drafting of the provision which is quite explicit - in contrast to what took place in Sweden. The main purpose of the act as discussed among the Finnish lawyers was to abolish the line of subordination between parents and children. For such reasons, the family tie could never be a defence in case of opposition between parents and child. This had fargoing consequences. You could not do anything to your child that you could not do to a stranger passerby in the street. That includes all forms of punishment, and it is interesting to note that even the question of libel and slander is being discussed, as indeed ‘psychological violence’ practiced upon a child – e.g. ironizing over a child’s stupid remarks. It is true that one expert thought that court cases of children complaining of being libelled and slandered by their parents were unlikely to occur and so far I have not heard of any such cases, but they certainly were possible the way the legislation was drafted. The following categorical remark of the Government’s legal draftsman, Matti Savolainen, would seem to close the discussion : “There is from now no relationship of subordination, no right to force or punish a child that could be a defence against a prosecution” “The relationship of subordination between parents and children is explicitly abolished.”

This emancipation of the children from the family tie should of course be seen in light of the extremes of 1968 atmosphere which pervaded the 1970s in so many places, and to which the Swedish minority Government of 1978 had fallen prey, with a following in finlandized Finland where Marxism was an accepted philosophy in the hope of getting Soviet approval. In that atmosphere, the family unit was seen as an agent of conservatism, standing in the way of society´s quick transformation into true Socialism, and consequently something to undermined and sabotaged by people of the correct mind.

Whether Sweden “benefited” from the reform as you put it, is very much in doubt as I see it. Certainly, it has undermined the family tie with a lot of mischief following. It has turned little children into informers upon their parents, and the social bureaucracy into a super-nanny with a kind of police powers as against the parents. The change in atmosphere may be applauded by leftist circles around, but it is certainly deplored by the families hit by the revolutionary zeal. No figures have ever been given showing any beneficial effect of the legislation. It may be an eye-opener to realize that the situations depicted in the enclosed cartoons represent criminal offences under the present Swedish legislation. The cartoonists do not seem to realize this, nor those do it who propagate for copying the Swedish legislation,

Sincerely yours

Jacob W.F. Sundberg
Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus

Institutet för offentlig och internationell rätt
Finns på:
Prof. em Jacob W.F. Sundberg nås via e-mail på

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