State to study psychiatrists’ role in court, again

Justice Minister Grete Faremo has announced she’s willing to evaluate new rules for determining the mental state of criminal defendants, but some top lawyers say it shouldn’t be necessary. They claim the issue was brought up and studied by a commission more than a decade ago, but nothing came of its recommendations.

“Doesn’t Faremo know what’s on her own shelves?” mused Frode Sulland, a noted defense attorney in Norway and considered an expert on punitive measures. He was a member of a commission formed after some defendants were found to have been inappropriately sentenced.

“We worked on this for three years,” Sulland told newspaper Dagsavisen. “The report has just collected dust ever since. I don’t even know if our recommendations were sent out for hearing.”

The issue of the power wielded by psychiatrist in criminal court cases has arisen once again after the man charged with carrying out last year’s terrorist attacks was first found to have been insane by two court-appointed psychiatrists. The court ordered a second opinion following massive public debate and the report filed last week by a second team of psychiatrists found confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik to be sane.

Breivik’s trial was due to get underway on Monday. The state of his mental health will determine what sort of sentence he receives, with the judge left to rule on whether he should be held in prison or committed to a psychiatric institution.

Views and News staff