Government tries to toughen jail terms

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Norway’s conservative government coalition hopes to raise the maximum jail terms judges can hand out in cases of violent and sexual crime. It had to give up efforts, however, to boost Norway’s maximum sentence to 30 and 40 years.

Justice Minister Per-Willy Amundsen of the Progress Party had to admit that the government’s proposal met strong opposition during its hearing rounds, also from government prosecutors and legal experts at the University of Bergen. Amundsen wanted judges to raise the current maximum term from 21- to 30 years, and even 40 years in cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Amundsen also wanted to do away with the “rebates” criminals in Norway effectively receive when they’re convicted on multiple counts but only can receive maximum punishment for one count. In the case of the young Norwegian man who killed 77 people on July 22, 2011, for example, he never risked receiving 77 murder sentences of up to 21 years each. He instead was sentenced to Norway’s maximum term of 21 years, but under the special custody system known as forvaring that means judges can extend the sentence if he’s still found to present a threat to society.

News bureau NTB reported that Amundsen realized there was little chance of winning a majority in Parliament to raise the current maximum jail term to 30 or 40 years, also when multiple counts were involved. Only in cases where special custody is warranted, when a judge determines that the public must be protected from a particularly violent convict, can anyone be held in prison indefinitely under forvaring.

The 30-40 year terms have thus been dropped, but Amundsen still wants criminals to be subject to charges and sentences based on multiple counts in cases of violence and sexual assault. He referred to the case against former dancer Julio Kopseng, who was convicted of rape and assault against 19 women but only received the maximum sentence under forvaring of 21 years. Multiple offenders like Kopseng now may be subject to at least another five years in prison, to 26 years, if Amundsen’s proposal is approved.

Sentencing in Norway remains in the hands of judges, however, who sentence criminals based on court precedence. Criminals rarely receive maximum jail terms and precedence generally keeps it that way.

newsinenglish.no staff