World

Norwegian professors defend lenient judicial system in wake of massacre

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer

Norwegian law professors tell The Daily Caller that they are proud of their lenient judicial system and hope that it is not altered in the wake of the Friday’s massacre.

TheDC contacted three professors from the University of Oslo’s faculty of law over the weekend to confirm Norwegian police reports that the maximum sentence that can be imposed on killer Anders Behring Breivik is 21 years. All three confirmed that 21 years was the maximum possible sentence, but two of the professors offered a defense of the system that would allow Breivik to be out of jail by his mid-50s.

“I think it is very important to keep it that way, despite the gruesome events that have occurred now,” Professor Thomas Mathiesen said of the 21-year max penalty. “Norwegian society will gain nothing from a higher punishment level, people of this kind will not become less prone to engage as this man did on Friday 22 July, and the punishment level we have now will contribute to Norway staying the relatively humane society that we are proud of and want to live in.”

“Many among us are proud to live in a country that emphasize moderation in retribution,” Professor Nils Christie told TheDC. “I hope, and believe, that we also this time will be able to stick to our ideals of moderation in punishment. The preliminary reactions to these days of horror in Norway have been exposure of a strong urge to live up to our basic ideals of remaining an open welfare society based on humanity.”

One of the professors contacted, however, said the attacks challenged his understanding of evil, though he didn’t comment on whether their lenient penal system should be reevaluated.

“We are all very traumatized,” Professor Per Ole Johansen said, noting his office was so close to the bombing in Oslo that the building “was trembling like a weak tree in the storm.”

“The massacre of the flower of the Norwegian youth have basically challenged our traditional Nordic understanding of the Evil and the willingness to be cruel.”

While all three professors confirmed that the maximum penalty that could be meted out on Breivik was 21 years in prison, Christie noted that there is a possible but rare exception that could see the alleged killer remain in jail longer.

“If, however, the person is seen as a particular danger to society, the person might receive a sentence that authorize prison authorities to keep him or her even longer when the 21 years are coming close to the end,” he said. “This wish must again be brought up for a court. As far as I know, such a situation nearly never appear.”

Breivik, 32, has reportedly admitted being behind the attacks Friday that killed at least 76 people and injured many others in Norway. Police have lowered the death toll from what they said over the weekend. A car bombing in the Norwegian capital of Oslo killed at least eight and a shooting spree at a youth camp on the island of Utoya outside of Oslo killed at minimum 68, many of whom were teenagers, according to Norwegian authorities.

“Never since the Second World War has our country been hit by a crime on this scale,” Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said of Friday’s attacks.