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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there