Government wants to lengthen jail terms

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Nothing like going out with a bang: Outgoing Justice Minister Anders Anundsen announced plans on Monday to nearly double Norway’s maximum prison term for multiple offenders. He also proposes scrapping or reducing so-called “prison rebates” for convicts in criminal cases.

Anundsen, who’s widely expected to resign from government service on Tuesday as part of a ministerial shake-up, is directly appealing to Norwegians’ sense of justice with his latest proposals. He also is responding to rising calls over the years that Norway’s prison sentences are much too lenient compared to other countries.

Making the punishment fit the crime
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday afternoon that Anundsen is ready to send a proposal out to hearing that would raise the standard maximum prison term for the most serious crimes in Norway (including murder and rape) from 21 years to 30 years. Defendants convicted on several counts in the same criminal case could also face maximum prison terms of 40 years under Anundsen’s proposal.

“The proposal will send the courts a clear signal that the level of sentences must be sharpened in cases where the convict has committed several serious crimes,” Anundsen said.

He’s also weary of what the Norwegian court system calls kvantumsrabatten, a system of rebates that can reduce the amount of time defendants actually spend in jail and which Anundsen calls “unreasonably large.” He said the punishment in such cases must better fit the crimes committed.

Anundsen stressed that even though the courts are responsible for determining prison terms, politicians are responsible for setting the level of prison terms that judges must use as a reference point.

Boosting victim compensation, too
The justice minister said the government also wants to raise compensation levels for victims of multiple assailants, especially victims of gang rape. He noted that convicted gang rapists currently can face compensation claims that are smaller than they would have been if they’d been convicted alone.

The proposals could address perceived injustices in cases such as the bombing of Norwegian government headquarters and massacre carried out on the island of Utøya on July 22, 2011. In that case, a lone bomber and gunman was convicted of killing 77 people but only faced the maximum prison term that also applies to that for just one murder. In the US, for example, he would have been charged with 77 counts of murder and faced 77 life terms in prison, or even death sentences.

Norway has no death penalty but there was a lot of international reaction in the July 22 case that it didn’t seem to matter whether the convict killed one person or 77 people, since the maximum prison term was the same. In the July 22 case, however, the convicted killer likely faces imprisonment for life since he was also sentenced under the special form of custody known as forvaring. It means his case will come up before judges at least every 10 years, and they can determine whether there are sufficient grounds for release.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund