The openness principle backfires
The world’s fastest constitutional change
Once, in the spirit of true social consciousness, Swedish
lawmakers decided that the evidence in all public
trials—everything called “The People vs. ...”—should be available
to the general public. It seemed reasonable. If we’re all suing
somebody, we should have access to all information pertaining
to the trial.
It was a constitutional right up until 1993, when the
police cracked a huge child pornography ring. As the trial
started, some sicko realized that this was a public case
and therefore, he had a right to get copies of the evidence! The county courthouse
was suddenly inundated with requests for copies of the child pornography.
The distraught courthouse officials didn’t know what to do. The law demanded that
they provide those copies.
This is the good part: I will always have a warm spot in my heart for one of our evening
newspapers—sensationalist garbage that it is—for what they did during this case.
They published every single one of those sicko letters requesting copies of the
evidence. One was so pathetic that they didn’t just publish the text—they printed a
photocopy of the letter. Written in pencil, with lots of misspellings, from a man
claiming to be “studying the phenomenon” of child pornography. In fact, the man was
in prison serving a 20-year sentence for that very crime. The prison was even given as
his return address!
Astrid Lindgren, the beloved author of Pippi Longstocking and dozens of other children’s
books, was also given a full-page article, where she wished that the perpetrators would burn
Largely thanks to the efforts of this newspaper, the Swedish government pushed through the
world’s fastest constitutional change, eliminating the public right of access to evidence in
public trials; the whole process was completed within two months. Now that’s what I call a