Freya Berry: Social response to killers is more important than the punishment

iWriters

Share
Related Topics

What does a country do with a remorseless, apparently sane, mass-murderer? Unusually, Anders Breivik, perpetrator of the Utoya massacre, was left alive – something even he finds surprising. Now, safely in custody, famously liberal Norway is struggling to know how to deal with him.

The maximum prison sentence Norway offers is 21 years: roughly a third of a year for every person he killed. An insanity plea would render him liable for locking up indefinitely in a psychiatric unit – but Breivik insists he is sound in mind.

Norway has so far preserved its political ethics, balancing Breivik's democratic rights with human decency and caution. Yet what is most notable is not the actions of the judiciary, but the response from the people. A poll by Dagbladet newspaper showed 68 per cent of the population remain opposed to the death penalty. The same newspaper has also introduced a "No Breivik" button, which removes him from its news feed. And of the 139 public tickets for Breivik's hearing, just 50 have been taken up. This behaviour shows a dignified refusal to let his actions and beliefs affect their lives.

This is a country whose Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, regularly cycles to work without security, without a chauffeured car following behind (David Cameron, I'm looking at you). At the memorial service to Breivik's victims, he said "we will never give up our values. Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity."

Meanwhile, since the 7/7 bombings, the UK has sustained wars against two countries; tried to impose 42-day detentions without trial; and is now threatening to introduce secret courts.

When little James Bulger was murdered in 1993 by two 10-year-olds, we tried them as adults, incarcerated them for eight years, and released the perpetrators' identities into a furious public domain. In Norway's city of Trondheim in 1994, two six-year-olds murdered a young girl. All identities remained anonymous, the boys were moved to another school, and neither has reoffended. The authorities treated them as what they were: children.

We cannot fight hate with hate. Norwegians have developed from being the pointy-helmeted, spear-waving scourge of Europe to being one of the world's most peaceful societies. "This will bring us together," said a friend of a Breivik victim. The Norwegian people have shown that the sentencing of a killer is far less important than the social response of those they leave behind.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
It is much easier to correct errors on the web than in print  

There would be no need for corrections if we didn’t make mistakes in the first place

Will Gore
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links