A young Norwegian man who stabbed a friend to death at a Halloween party just over three years ago, and nearly killed another party guest, may soon be set free. He was sentenced to psychiatric care and doctors now claim he’s mentally healthy, but prosecutors fear he’s still dangerous and want to keep him confined.
The now-25-year-old assailant is thus back in a courtroom in Drammen this week, where prosecutors are arguing that society still needs to be protected from the him. Doctors at the nearby psychiatric facility where he’s undergone treatment contend he’s healthy enough to be released. Newspaper Aftenposten reported this week that the young man who set off the bloody Halloween attacks already has been allowed out on leave.
Under Norwegian law, anyone determined to be psychotic when committing a crime can’t be punished. After court-appointed psychiatrists determined that the man was psychotic, the Oslo City Court committed him to mental health treatment through the Vestre Viken health care agency. It now believes the job is finished and he should be freed. He can be committed to psychiatric care again, though, if he has a relapse.
That suggests he’d have to harm or kill someone again before he’d be confined, and prosecutors are asking the court to avoid that risk. They had also argued at his initial court trial three years ago that he was mentally competent, if under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when he stabbed his friends and thus was criminally liable. They had sought a jail term of 16 years.
Now it’s up to the court to decide the young man’s fate, with his defense attorney claiming that his client doesn’t want to be released if there’s a danger he can commit new crimes. A state commission, meanwhile, is recommending that the courts assume responsibility for punishment and not leave it entirely in the hands of psychiatrists, who instead should only offer their professional opinions on a defendant’s mental state. Norway is currently one of the few countries in the world that has practiced full immunity for those declared mentally ill, and that may finally change.