The role of a prosecutor

Swedish prosecutors have three main tasks: to lead investigations, to bring prosecutions, and to appear in court. Prosecutors have a duty to remain objective and to make decisions independently.

On this page:

  1. A prosecutor has three main tasks
  2. A prosecutor is objective and independant
  3. Public authorities are independent of ministries
  4. Three levels of prosecutors with different assignment

A prosecutor has three main tasks:

To lead investigations

A prosecutor leads investigations and decides which inquiries the police should make. The aim of the investigation is to identify a suspect and to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to file a prosecution. How long an investigation takes will depend on the complexity of the offence, the willingness of the suspect to cooperate and the available evidence.

To file a prosecution

Once the prosecutor decides that there is sufficient evidence that a suspect has committed a crime and to convict them in a court of law, the prosecutor has a duty to file a prosecution.

To appear in court

One important part of a prosecutor’s work is to appear in court. Most prosecutors will be in court on one or two days every week. During the trial, the prosecutor is a party to the case, tasked with proving that a crime has been committed. A prosecutor also has a duty to report any evidence favourable to the suspect.

A prosecutor is objective and independent

A prosecutor’s duty of objectivity implies that a prosecutor has an obligation to remain objective and to investigate and examine evidence even when it is favourable to the suspect. A prosecutor must remain objective even once the prosecution has been filed.

Sweden’s prosecutors are independent when they make decisions such as whether to file a prosecution or place someone under arrest. This means that the individual prosecutors have sole responsibility for their own decisions and that these cannot be changed by, for example, the chief public prosecutor to whom they report. Anyone directly affected by a prosecutor’s decision does however have the right to request that the decision be reviewed by a prosecutor at a higher judicial level.

Public authorities are independent of ministries

The Swedish Government has no powers to intervene in a public authority's decisions in specific matters relating to the application of the law or the exercise of its authority. In many other countries, it is common for an individual minister to have the power to intervene directly through a decision in a public authority’s day-to-day operations. In Sweden this is prohibited by the Instrument of Government, one of the four fundamental laws of the Swedish Constitution.

Three levels of prosecutors with different assignment

There are three judicial levels at the Swedish Prosecution Authority. This means that a decision made by a prosecutor at one judicial level can be reviewed by a prosecutor at a higher judicial level.

  1. Public Prosecutors (incl. Chief Public Prosecutors)
  2. Director of Public Prosecution
  3. The Prosecutor General

Public Prosecutors and Chief Public Prosecutors work at the first judicial level. As a Public Prosecutor and the chief public prosecutor to whom they report are at the same judicial level, the chief cannot intervene in a decision made by the public prosecutor. Public Prosecutors are competent to deal with all types of crime across the country.

Example

A public Prosecutor decides to discontinue an investigation. The injured party requests a review of this decison. A Director of Public Prosecution may then review and, if necessary, change the public prosecutor’s decision. Sweden’s highest-ranked prosecutor is the Prosecutor General, who works at the third judicial level. In rare cases, the Prosecutor General may decide to review and change a decison reached at another judicial level.

Sweden has no state or district public prosecutors or the like.