Fewer Swiss criminal convictions probably due to pandemic

Covid also appears to have disrupted the Swiss court system, which may also explain why there were so few convictions last year. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

The Covid-19 pandemic is suspected of having played a role in a significant drop in criminal convictions in Switzerland last year.

This content was published on May 17, 2021 - 11:56

There were 11% fewer convictions (95,000) in 2020 than in the previous year, according to official statistics published on Monday. The fall was particularly pronounced among foreigners who were denied access to Switzerland for large parts of 2020.

Sentences of at least two years fell by 27%, but this might have had something to do with the pandemic disrupting the court system, the Federal Statistical Office said.

“The current statistics do not yet provide a conclusive picture,” it stated on MondayExternal link. “Whether there really were fewer criminal offences or whether there was only a backlog in handling criminal proceedings can only be assessed once all the offences from 2020 have been dealt with. This will take at least another one to two years.”

Fewer convictions of foreigners

There does appear to be a correlation between Covid-19 and the overall drop in traffic offences, the statistical office said. The 15% fall in drink-driving convictions could reasonably be attributed to lockdowns that both restricted domestic travel and closed bars and restaurants. But a slight uptick in speeding convictions could be the result of people using their cars more often to avoid public transport.

It also seems likely that closed borders with other countries resulted in far fewer foreigners being convicted in Switzerland.

There were far fewer convictions for foreigners without a residency permit (-12% under the general criminal code and -21% for both traffic and narcotics violations). For Swiss nationals or holders of a residency permit these numbers fell by 3%, 9% and 8% respectively.

Convictions led to 1,841 people being expelled from Switzerland last year, usually because they did not have a residency permit. That was a decline of 12% from 2019.

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