Tougher penalties for mapping protection-worthy assets

Recent years have seen an increase of the number of reported breaches of access bans. In 2020, several court procedures were carried out against individuals that had breached the access ban to facilities of protective security interest, as well as against individuals that had engaged in mapping a large number of defence facilities. Several court procedures are on-going, and more are expected in 2021.

Entering a protection-worthy asset without a permit is a very serious crime and those who do so jeopardise both their own personal security as well as that of Sweden. Photo: Jimmy Croona/Swedish Armed Forces

“Those who engage in this type of activity are often individuals with a so-called excessive interest in all things military. They dedicate a lot of time to gathering and spreading information about military facilities. They can easily copy large quantities of information digitally and distribute it on the internet. But this is a serious crime and these individuals jeopardise their own security as well as Sweden’s security”, says Commander Jan Kinnander, head of the Security Department at the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST).

In 2019, the penalty for breaching access bans was increased in the Installations Protection Act. The maximum penalty is now two years’ imprisonment. This is in stark contrast to the penalties that have previously been decided; thus, sending a clear signal of the severity of the crime.

”By mapping, gathering and spreading information about protection-worthy assets, these individuals can help foreign powers – sometimes unwittingly. Foreign powers use major resources on mapping Swedish military and civilian protection-worthy assets, and this work is unfortunately made easier by the activities of these individuals, continues Commander Jan Kinnander.

In January 2020, an individual was sentenced to one year in prison for documenting, photographing and gathering information about 36 defence facilities of protective security interest. The individual had also spread some of the information, deemed to be of great importance to Swedish security. The verdict was appealed by the prosecutor and during the spring, the Court of Appeal confirmed the sentence.

In May 2020, another individual was sentenced to eight months in prison for gross unlawful handling of classified information and for having stored information about 37 defence facilities on their computer. The verdict was appealed to the Court of Appeal and the court increased the sentence to one year in prison.

At the end of 2020, another criminal proceeding for the same offence was initiated. In this case, the individual is charged with spreading classified and sensitive information on seven defence facilities in a secret web forum. Court proceedings will take place in the spring of 2021.

Three men were charged with breaching the Installations Protection Act as they unlawfully breached the access ban to a military facility. The three men received suspended sentences. The judgment has been appealed by the prosecutor.

“Protection-worthy assets are facilities, buildings and areas that need specific protection as they are crucial to the defence of Sweden. Protective security is also in place to protect the general public from damage that can arise from military activity. As total defence is being reinstated and reinforced”, the protection-worthy assets have become more important, Commander Jan Kinnander concludes.

Entering a protection-worthy asset without a permit is a very serious crime and those who do so jeopardise both their own personal security as well as that of Sweden. Foto: Jimmy Croona/Försvarsmakten