Norway to drop jury system on appeal

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A majority in Parliament asked the government in 2015 to replace its appeals court jury system with a combination of professional and lay judges. Now the historic reform has taken shape, reports newspaper Aftenposten.

Instead of having a 10-member jury decide on guilt or innocence in Norway’s most serious criminal cases, they’ll now be heard in Norwegian appeals courts by two professional judges and five lay judges chosen from the public.

The reform changes the way cases have been decided for 130 years. The goal was to improve the rule of law, but some lawyers and judges were objecting on Friday. They had favoured a composition of three professional judges and four lay judges.

At least five of the seven judges must vote for convictions, including one of the professional judges. Sentencing will continue to be determined by the professional judges in cases with maximum jail terms of less than six years, but by all seven in cases with longer prospective jail terms.

The reform was signed by representatives for the Conservative, Progress and Christian Democrats parties and will be forwarded to Parliament for a final vote later this spring.

newsinenglish.no staff

  • inquisitor

    I will take a jury of my peers over a star chamber deciding my fate any day of the week.

    • richard albert

      This ‘lay judge’ thing is kind of a clone of the US grand jury system, where the jurors sit for a term, rather than being summoned for a specific case. Also the supermajority vs a unanimous decision is reminiscent. The reviews are rather mixed, but the stats indicate that an awful lot of BTUs are expended on cases that get tossed out by a trial court, and in retrospect the true bill determination is found to be rather profoundly flawed.

      Couple of glitches. The professional judge part is a real boo-boo. Unless the Norsk penchant for consensus kicks into overdrive, the PJ’s will probably have a disproportionate influence, wheras the US system is pre-jury trial. That means there is a chance for twelve good men and true to decide the facts.

      This move in the direction of judicial economy is understandable, but as you infer it may ill serve the public. The wheels of justice grind slow; but of necessity, they must grind exceedingly fine. The right to a speedy trial does not equate to a hasty trial.