Legal Silencing of Minority Legal Culture: The Case of Roma in Swedish Criminal Courts
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he traditional Swedish monocentric and uniform legal model is challenged by an increasingly diverse contemporary legal situation associated with the development of a multicultural and pluralistic society. How Swedish criminal courts handle this in terms of understanding and framing minority legal culture is addressed by looking into what role is given to this culture in the courts’ construction of facts and in sentencing. A particularly interesting case in this regard is the national minority Roma, seen as an example of a Swedish group that brings other normative systems into the state legal system through their distinct legal culture. Through an investigation of written verdicts, it is demonstrated that accounts of Roma legal culture face ‘legal silencing’ by the court – it is either not given significance or is given a form of attention that essentializes and alienates the culture. An analysis into why this legal silence occurs and into the possibilities for taking legal culture into account is provided. It is argued that there are structural barriers hampering the courts from taking legal culture into account but also that these structures can be changed for betterment to ensure equality before the law and hence legitimacy in a multicultural society.