Punishment for Terrorism in Norway

by Roger Alford

Professor Cecilia Marcela Bailliet of the University of Oslo has a very useful post over at IntLawGrrls on possible criminal punishment for right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik. Contrary to what has been reported elsewhere, according to Bailliet it is possible that Breivik could get life in prison for the death of 76 persons in last week’s shooting. Here’s an excerpt:

Detention is a punishment that can be pursued in the alternative of incarceration. It is pursued in cases involving serious crimes with a high risk of recidivism. Detention is conducted within penal system and is not subject to time limits. An order of detention shall establish the time period that normally will not extend past 15 years and cannot surpass 21 years. The minimum period of detention shall not be over 10 years. If the authorities consider the individual so dangerous that his release would pose a risk to society , the Court may extend the detention period up to 5 years at a time. There is no maximum limit for extensions.

In theory, the accused may spend the rest of his life in detention, pursuant to Court orders extending his detention 5 years at a time. Anders Behring Breivik is being charged with violating the terrorism provisions of the penal code which carry a penalty of 21 years incarceration. Furthermore, the prosecutors are considering pursuing a charge of violation of crimes against humanity which carry a maximum penalty of 30 years incarceration. This is a less plausible charge. The crime refers to actions by a State, organization connected to a state, or a paramilitary organization. It is unlikely that the Norwegian provision may be applied to an individual’s act without a relation to a larger organization.

What if he is found insane? In order to be criminally punished, the individual must be found to be sane at the time of the commission of the crime. Breivik is subject to court-appointed psychiatric evaluation to determine whether or not he is psychotic. If he is found to be considered insane at the time of the commission of the crime, he may be committed to a psychiatric institution if it is considered necessary for the protection of the society. This type of detention is not subject to time limits, but the law requires that the Court review the case regularly in order to establish whether there is a risk of recidivism.


One Response

  1. In the Netherlands, this system is called TBS, and it is quite commonly imposed, although it rarely leads to extremely long incarceration. (Even apart from the fact that TBS “patients” are supposed to be gradually reintegrated in society.)
    In the UK, it is apparently called Imprisonment for public protection (IPP): http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2011/37.html.

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