International Criminology World

World : Europe : Norway

The Viking period (9th to 11th centuries) was one of national unification and expansion. The Norwegian royal line died out in 1387, and the country entered a period of union with Denmark. By 1586, Norway had become part of the Danish Kingdom. In 1814, as a result of the Napoleonic wars, Norway was separated from Denmark and combined with Sweden. The union persisted until 1905, when Sweden recognized Norwegian independence.

The Norwegian Government offered the throne of Norway to Danish Prince Carl in 1905. After a plebiscite approving the establishment of a monarchy, the Parliament unanimously elected him king. He took the name of Haakon VII, after the kings of independent Norway. Haakon died in 1957 and was succeeded by his son, Olav V, who died in January 1991. Upon Olav's death, his son Harald was crowned as King Harald V. Norway was a nonbelligerent during World War I, but as a result of the German invasion and occupation during World War II, Norwegians generally became skeptical of the concept of neutrality and turned instead to collective security. Norway was one of the signers of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 and was a founding member of the United Nations. The first UN General Secretary, Trygve Lie, was a Norwegian. Under the terms of the will of Alfred Nobel, the Storting (Parliament) elects the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee who award the Nobel Peace Prize to champions of peace.

Today, Norway is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy with King Harald V as the Head of State.  It is governed by a prime minister, cabinet, and a 165-seat Parliament (Storting) that is elected every 4 years through free and fair election; it cannot be dissolved.  The judiciary is independent. 



The country has a population of approximately 4.5 million and is an advanced industrial state with a mixed economy combining private and public ownership that provides a high standard of living for residents.  The per capita gross national product during the year was $34,310 (312,197 Kroner).  The key industries are oil and gas, metals, engineering, shipbuilding, fishing, and manufacturing (including fish processing equipment).  The leading exports are oil and gas, manufactured goods, fish, and metals.  In 2000 80.6 percent of workers were in the service sector, and 13.3 percent were in the manufacturing sector.  During the year, 31.3 percent of workers were employed in the public sector.  The economy is characterized by low unemployment and labor shortages in many sectors.


The roots of the Norwegian legal system can be traced back more than 1,000 years to the institution of the Allting. This was a public gathering of yeomen, who convened to settle disputes and make laws for the local district. These types of meetings were in existence well before the country was united as one kingdom under King Harald Haarfagre in the late 9th century. During the 10th century, there arose the institution of the Lagting, which was a more formal and less localized body exercising legislative, judicial, and executive powers in relation to a particular area. These bodies were composed of appointed representatives of local communities, officials of the King, and members of the clergy.

In the late 13th century, under the direction of King Magnus Lagabote Magnus the Lawmender), the regional laws created by the Lagting were gathered together and codified under one national law called the Landslov. The second major codification of Norwegian law took place in 1687, during the period when Norway was in union with, and ruled by, Denmark. This codification was initiated by the Danish King, Christian V. Upon dissolution of the union with Denmark at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Norway adopted a Constitution on May 17, 1814. Amongst other things, the Constitution provided for the establishment of a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy.

Of particular relevance for the administration of criminal justice are Articles 20, 96, 99, and 102 of the Constitution. Article 20 empowers the King to pardon criminals, while Article 96 bans interrogation by torture and holds that no one may be convicted "except according to law", or be punished "except after a court judgement". Article 99 states that no one "may be taken into custody except in the cases determined by law and in the manner prescribed by law", and Article 102 bans the searching of private homes "except in criminal cases." Another relevant constitutional provision is Article 94, which provides for the publication of "a new general civil and criminal code."

The first comprehensive penal code was enacted in 1842. This was replaced by the General Civil Penal Code of May 22, 1902. While this Code is still in force, it is important to note that a Criminal Law Commission was appointed in 1980 to draft a new code. So far, work by the Commission has resulted in several amendments to the existing Code, plus a draft set of general provisions for the proposed new code. The draft set of new general provisions have not yet been sent out for a general hearing.

Special rules on judicial procedure for criminal cases were first codified in statute form in 1887. This statute was replaced by the Act on Rules of Judicial Procedure in Penal Cases, which entered into force on January 1, 1986. Several important changes to this Act have been proposed recently. The bulk of these amendments were approved by Parliament on June 11, 1993 and entered into force in 1994. They were not expected to enter into force until 1994.

The Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Act are the two main laws governing the civil administration of criminal justice in Norway. The military administration of criminal justice is governed by two corresponding laws: the Military Penal Code of 1902 and Military Criminal Procedures Act of 1900.

The Penal Code groups criminal offenses into felonies and misdemeanors. The Criminal Law Commission, set up to draft a new Penal Code, has proposed the distinction between felonies and misdemeanors be eventually dropped from criminal law. (It is important to note that, unless otherwise specified, all legal references in this report are to laws as they existed on September 1, 1993.).

Felonies are, with some exceptions, offenses with a maximum penalty exceeding 3 months' imprisonment. The majority of felonies are defined and listed in Part 2 of the Penal Code, such as perjury, arson, racial discrimination, rape, defaulting on obligation to support dependents, slander and libel, larceny, embezzlement, damaging information and communication systems, murder, blackmail and robbery, fraud and breach of trust.

Misdemeanors are generally minor offenses carrying a maximum penalty of 3 months' imprisonment. Examples of these types of offenses are found in Part 3 of the Penal Code. All breaches of the Road Traffic Act are defined as misdemeanors irrespective of whether or not they carry a maximum penalty of more than 3 months' imprisonment.

The minimum age at which one can be held criminally liable is 15.

Drug offenses are set out in Sections 162 and 162a of the Penal Code and Section 22 and 43 of the Medicinal Goods Act. The drugs covered by these laws are listed in the Narcotics Regulations issued by the Ministry of Social Affairs. There are some 250 substances listed; salts and derivatives of the listed substances are also categorized as narcotics. An ordinary drug offense pursuant to the Penal Code involves the illegal manufacture, introduction, acquisition, storage (as opposed to possession), or transfer of narcotics, and is punished by a fine or imprisonment of up to 2 years. Imprisonment for a serious drug offense can be imposed for a maximum of 10 years.

Whether or not a drug offense is judged as serious depends on the type of drug involved, its quantity and the nature of the offense. If the quantity is "very significant," imprisonment will be imposed for a period of 3 to 15 years. In "particularly aggravating circumstances," an offender can be imprisoned for up to 21 years.

A similar hierarchy of sanctions is provided for those who receive or make a profit from a drug offense or who assist other persons in receiving or making such a profit. A drug offense under the Medicinal Goods Act is defined as the illegal possession or use of narcotics, and the purchasing of narcotics under false pretenses.

Note that, prima facie, the laws make no distinction between different kinds of narcotics; marihuana is treated the same as heroin or cocaine. The use of drugs in sport is not encompassed by the above laws.



The crime rate in Norway is high and similar to other industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Norway. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Norway will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 2.66 per 100,000 population for Norway, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 15.12 for Norway, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 47.47 for Norway, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 77.43 for Norway, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 117.95 for Norway, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. (Data for burglary were taken from UN Survey for 2000 - missing from INTERPOL survey. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 2563.55 for Norway, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 518.25 for Norway, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 3342.43 for Norway, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA. It should be observed that the high rate of Index crime for Norway is largely the product of high rates of larceny and motor vehicle theft. The other crimes in the index are moderate to low.


Between 1995 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder increased from 2.2 to 2.66 per 100,000 population, an increase of 20.9%. The rate for rape increased from 10.57 to 15.12, an increase of 43%. The rate of robbery increased from 28.83 to 47.47, an increase of 64.7%. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 57.32 to 77.43, an increase of 35.1%. The rate for burglary increased from 95.02 to 117.95, an increase of 24.1%. The rate of larceny increased from 2083.77 to 2563.55, an increase of 23%. The rate of motor vehicle theft increased from 515.31 to 518.25, an increase of 0.6%. The rate of total index offenses increased from 2793.02 to 3342.43, an increase of 19.7%.


Norway has mixture of customary law, civil law system, and common law traditions.

It is difficult to classify the Norwegian legal system solely by reference to the various ideal categories of legal systems which are commonly cited. This is because the Norwegian legal system has largely been set up on a national level. The Norwegian system is most similar to the legal systems of the other Nordic countries, particularly those of Denmark and Sweden. Norway does not have a general codification of private or public law corresponding to the Code Civil Law in civil law countries. It instead has comprehensive statutes codifying, among other things, central aspects of the criminal law and the administration of justice. Norwegian courts do not attach the same weight to judicial precedents as members of the judiciary in common law countries traditionally have done. Neither are Norwegian courts bound by intricate rules concerning the admissibility of evidence; the basic rule is that all evidence is admissible. Court procedure is relatively informal and simple, and there is a strong lay influence in the judicial assessment of criminal matters and, to a lesser extent, civil matters. This lay influence is created through the use of both a jury system and a system whereby lay judges (without formal legal qualifications) sit with professional judges in the hearing of cases.



There are 5 police regions, among which are 54 police districts. The districts are led by police commissioners, who have as their immediate subordinates, deputy police commissioners, assistant commissioners and superintendents. Police commissioners and deputy police commissioners are appointed by the King in Council. The other two classes of officials are appointed by the Ministry of Justice and Police.

The police force is administered directly by the Ministry of Justice and Police. It is also subordinate to the Public Prosecution Authority with regard to the investigation and prosecution of crimes. The police commissioners and their immediate subordinates form the first instance of the Public Prosecution Authority, which is headed by the Director General of Public Prosecutions.

The Director General is appointed by, and directly accountable to, the King, independent of the Ministry of Justice. He or she is assisted by 40 Public Prosecutors or State Attorneys, 37 of whom are assigned to particular geographical jurisdictions. There are 9 such jurisdictions. In addition, there are 8 Public Prosecutors attached to the recently established Central Unit for the Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime. All Public Prosecutors or State Attorneys are lawyers and appointed by the King.

In rural areas, police duties are carried out by sheriffs, each of whom has general administrative authority in relation to a defined district. There are 370 such districts. As a police officer, a sheriff is accountable to the local police commissioner.

There are several special units to the police force, all of which are dministered centrally. These include the National Bureau of Crime Investigation, the Police Security Service, the Police Computing Service, the Police Equipment

Service and the Mobile Police. There is also a small specialist anti-terror squad based in Oslo. The functions and tasks of the police are many and varied, ranging from the usual maintenance of law and order, the investigation and prevention of crime, to more specialized administrative tasks, such as immigration control and control of lotteries and gambling. The main rules governing the functions and tasks of the police force are found in the Police Act of 1936, the Police Instruction of 1990, the Surveillance Instruction of 1977, the Weapon Instruction of 1989, the Criminal Procedures Act of 1981 and the Prosecution Instruction of 1985.

It should be noted that the fundamental right of police to maintain public order is based on customary law and not set down in statute. However, this right was included in a proposal for a new Police Act, drafted in 1991 and submitted to Parliament in 1994.

The police are completely independent of the military forces. In certain emergency situations, such as rescue operations and natural catastrophes, the police can seek the assistance of the military when there are insufficient civilian resources to cope with the situation. In such cases, the military forces are under command of the police and must follow the laws which regulate police actions.

Persons seeking to be recruited into the police force as ordinary service personnel must be between 21 and 30 years old, have Norwegian citizenship, and be of good health, character and standing. They must also have completed a 3-year training course run by the National Police Academy in Oslo. This training course involves 1 year of studies at the academy, followed by 1 year of practical training at police stations, and then a year of further study back at the academy. At present, there are no compulsory postgraduate courses for service personnel, although such courses have existed in the past. Those seeking to be recruited to the upper echelons of the police force, such as the rank of superintendent, must have completed a university degree in law.

Section 67 of the Criminal Procedures Act provides the police with general authority to investigate and prosecute cases of crime. It also provides the police with authority to seek court permission to apply certain coercive measures, such as arrest and seizure of property, during the investigation and prosecution process. These coercive measures are described in Chapters 14-17 of the Criminal Procedures Act and amplified in Chapters 8-11 of the Prosecution Instruction of 1985.

Rules governing the use of weapons by police are contained in the Weapon Instruction (WI) of 1989. The instruction covers the use of guns, explosives, gas and batons. Batons and gas can only be used in "especially dangerous situations" or when police cannot carry through a task without being subject to a risk of injury. Guns shall only be used as a "last option", when: (a) police or others are threatened by weapons or violence and the use of guns seems necessary to prevent the loss of human life or serious injury; or (b) it is necessary to immediately apprehend a person who is suspected of, or charged with, a serious violent offense, including attempts at such offenses, or a person who is otherwise seen as being of special danger to national security, to life or health; or (c) it is necessary to prevent serious damage to foreign property, or when especially important interests of society are threatened. Before using weapons, police must consider the danger or risk of injury to which outsiders will be subjected. If circumstances allow, they must initially warn a person that weapons will be used against him or her if he or she does not obey police orders. They must also fire a warning shot. Explosives can only be used in order to gain access to locked or barricaded premises, when the conditions in Section 19 of Weapon Instruction are fulfilled, and upon an order from a police commissioner. Police on routine patrol do not carry guns.

Police commissioners can authorize that handguns be taken by police when patrolling by car. In such cases, the weapons and ammunition must be kept in locked cabinets in the patrol cars. Special police units can carry other types of weapons, if permitted by the Ministry of Justice. Police are allowed, on a case by case basis, to carry guns in certain dangerous situations.

The major legal requirements that must be met before a person can be arrested by the police are provided in Chapter 14 of the Criminal Procedures Act. Generally, the decision to arrest a person must be made by an official of the Public Prosecuting Authority, which includes the higher-ranking police officials, or a court. An ordinary police officer or private citizen may make an arrest on his or her own initiative if delay "entails any risk." However, these sorts of arrests must subsequently be ratified as soon as possible by the Public Prosecuting Authority.

There are no statistics available on the number of arrests made without a warrant. Whether a person is arrested depends primarily on the type of penalty for the offense he or she is suspected of having committed, along with the risk that he or she will try to evade prosecution and/or commit another crime. Section 171 of the Criminal Procedures Act states that any person who is suspected "with just cause" of committing a felony punishable by more than 6 months' imprisonment may be arrested when: (1) "there is reason to fear that he will evade prosecution or the execution of a sentence or other precautions"; (2) "there is an immediate risk that he will interfere with any evidence in the case..."; (3) "it is deemed necessary in order to prevent him from again committing a criminal act punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding 6 months"; or (4) "he himself requests it for reasons that are found to be satisfactory.[...]." None of these four conditions need to be met in order to arrest a person suspected of a felony punishable by imprisonment of 10 years or more. Such a person may be arrested if he or she confesses to the felony or there are circumstances "that strengthen the suspicion to a marked degree."

Persons "caught in the act" of committing a crime may be arrested irrespective of the penalty the crime incurs. This is also the case when there is "reason to fear" that a suspect will evade prosecution by fleeing abroad. After being arrested, a person must be brought before a court "as soon as possible and as far as possible on the day following the arrest", so that an order can be issued that the person be remanded in custody.

It is possible for police to detain a person for up to 4 hours without arresting him or her. This temporary detention can be imposed on persons who "disturb the public peace and order", or who do not comply with a police request to give their name, age and place of residence, or who are found in the vicinity of a place where a felony is "deemed" to have occurred immediately beforehand. Further guidelines on when and how police may detain persons who disturb the public peace and order are provided in Chapt 9 of the Police Instruction.

The police may search a person's premises if that person "is with just cause suspected of any act punishable by law with imprisonment." The police may also conduct a bodily search of such a person "if there is reason to assume that it may lead to the discovery of evidence or of objects that may be seized."

Pursuant to Sect. 157 of the Criminal Procedures Act, it is also possible to conduct a physical examination of a suspect during a court inquiry. In certain circumstances, police can search the premises of persons other than the suspect and to conduct bodily searches of these persons. All searches must be made pursuant to a court order, unless the person concerned consents to the search, is "caught in the act" or there is "strong suspicion" of an act punishable by more than 6 months' imprisonment and there is an "immediate risk that the purpose of the search will otherwise be thwarted." Searches should be conducted "as far as possible" in the presence of an independent witness. Upon being arrested, a person may also be searched in order to find and dispossess him or her of anything that may be used for the purpose of violence or escape.

Any objects "deemed to be significant as evidence" may be seized. Seizure will normally be the result of a written decision of the Public Prosecution Authority or a court, but a police officer can effect a seizure on his or her own initiative "when carrying out a decision to make an arrest or search, and otherwise when delay entails a risk." Any seizure may be challenged in a court.

Police have no authority to order any person, including suspects, to make a statement. However, they can record any statements that are made by the suspect. Suspects must be informed that they are not obliged to make any statement, before they are examined. In addition, persons conducting an examination of a suspect, such as the police, prosecuting authority, and court, must not use "promises, false information, threats or coercion", or "any means that reduce the level of consciousness or ability of the person charged to make up his own mind freely." If the suspect admits to having committed a crime, he or she must then be asked whether s/he admits being guilty and liable to a penalty. If an unreserved confession is made, the suspect must be asked whether he or she consents to the case being adjudicated in a court of summary jurisdiction.

Complaints alleging that police have breached criminal law in carrying out their duties are handled by special investigatory bodies, independent of the Ministry of Justice and Police and subordinate to the Director General of Public Prosecutions. All cases in which police actions have resulted in a person's death and/or serious bodily injury must be investigated by such bodies, irrespective of whether or not a complaint has been made. It is up to the Riksadvokat to decide whether or not to prosecute the police. Allegations of police acting in breach of discipline are handled by special committees attached to each police department. Decisions reached by these committees can be appealed to the Ministry of Justice and Police. The Ministry also handles general complaints about police behavior.

Today, the national police have primary responsibility for internal security; however, in times of crisis, such as internal disorder or natural catastrophe, the police may call on the armed forces for assistance.  In such circumstances, the armed forces are under police authority.  The civilian authorities maintain effective control of the security forces.


The rights of the accused are described in the Criminal Procedures Act. The accused must be informed of the nature of the charge(s) brought against him or her upon being arrested and attending court for the first time. The accused must also be given the chance to refute the grounds on which the charge is based.

Although the accused has a general right to attend court proceedings and to summon and examine witnesses, the court can order him or her to leave the courtroom while a witness is being examined "if there is special reason to fear that an unreserved statement will not otherwise be made." The accused must be informed subsequently of the proceedings that occurred in his or her absence. In special circumstances, such as if national security interests are at stake, the accused may be entirely excluded from the proceedings.

The court's verdict must be communicated to the accused as soon as possible, along with information on rights of appeal. Court judgements and orders are to be accompanied by reasons. The accused has the right to bring appeals against court verdicts, both on questions of fact and questions of law. There are, however, several limitations on the exercise of this right. For example, appeals to the Supreme Court, which is the highest judicial body, can only take place if permitted by the Court's Appeals Selection Committee. Moreover, the general rule is that such appeals can only be based on alleged errors of law. In other words, the Supreme Court is unable to try questions of evidence related to the issue of guilt. The accused do not have the right to have their cases tried by jury. As a basic rule, however, appeals from verdicts reached by the court of first instance on cases concerning felonies punishable by more than 6 years' imprisonment are dealt with by the High Court. In these cases, there is a jury present to decide the question of guilt.

As a general rule, the accused is entitled to the assistance of defense counsel of his or her choice during all stages of the judicial process. The accused is also provided with the free assistance of defense counsel, chosen by the court, during the main court hearing. There are several exceptions to the latter rule, such as if the case involves a certain minor offense, like driving under the influence of alcohol, or when the accused has made an unreserved confession. However, these exceptions apply only in cases tried by the City or District Court.

Once a person has been arrested, he or she is brought before the court of examination and summary jurisdiction. This court decides whether or not the person shall be remanded in custody. The prosecuting authority then prepares a formal indictment, which it serves on the accused. The indictment contains information on the time, place and object of the coming trial and legal details on the nature of the charge. When the relevant 1993 amendments to the CPA enter into force, all criminal matters will initially be brought to the District and City Courts. Appeals will be brought before the High Court, though in special circumstances they will be able to go directly to the Supreme Court.

Previously, the most serious criminal cases were tried by the High Court at first instance. It was also much easier to bring appeals from decisions reached by the District and City Courts directly before the Supreme Court, bypassing the High Court in the process.

The Public Prosecution Authority is responsible for deciding whether to prosecute and for conducting the prosecution. For very serious felonies, such as murder, the decision to prosecute lies with the Director General of Public Prosecutions. Responsibility for prosecuting most other types of felonies lies with the State attorneys/Public Prosecutors. Police Commissioners and their immediate subordinates are also part of the Public Prosecution Authority and have the power to prosecute more minor cases, which are typically misdemeanors. On August 27, 1993, a Royal Resolution was issued, extending police prosecution powers to encompass different types of felonies, such as breaking and entering, falsification of documents, larceny, fraud and vandalism.

Minor offenses can be settled by the police serving a writ prescribing payment of an optional fine upon the accused. This type of writ is usually served in minor traffic and customs offenses. If the fine is paid, there are no further judicial proceedings. If the fine is not paid, the matter can be prosecuted in court using simplified proceedings. For instance, a District Court judge could decide the matter summarily. This simplified court procedure is also employed when an accused person makes an unreserved confession for a crime not punishable by more than 10 years' imprisonment, and the confession is corroborated by evidence. An ordinary court trial can also be avoided: (a) in cases where the prosecuting authority decides not to prosecute, often with the condition that the offender undertakes not to engage in further criminal behavior; (b) in cases involving persons under the age of 18, which are left to be decided by municipal child welfare boards; and (c) in cases which can be settled by arbitration through the Conflict Board. Investigations of felonies completed by the police in 1991 resulted in 58,600 charges being brought against 22,400 persons; 70% of the charges, and approximately half of the persons charged, ended up in trial. Of cases involving felonies which were investigated in 1991, 77% were not cleared up by the end of the year. Only 11% to 14% of cases involving larceny were successfully investigated, while figures for cases involving murder and serious drug offenses were 84% and 89%, respectively. Of those cases which were cleared up in 1991, 19.5% resulted in charges being laid,of which 69.5% went to trial. Just as the proportion of cases successfully investigated varies by type of offense, so does the proportion of cases going to trial, though often to a smaller extent and not in the same pattern. Approximately 75% to 80% of charges involving larceny went to trial in 1991. The figures for ordinary drug crimes, serious drug crimes and murder were approximately 78%, 97% and 80%, respectively. These percentages were calculated using numerical data from Criminal Statistics 1991.

A court of examination and summary jurisdiction can decide that an arrested person be remanded in custody if any of the conditions set out in Sections 171, 172 or 173 of the Criminal Procedures Act are fulfilled. Pre-trial incarceration shall be "as short as possible and must not exceed 4 weeks", but it can be extended by up to 4 weeks at a time. There is a provision for a person to forgo arrest or be released from custody subsequent to arrest if he or she gives certain guarantees. However, this practice is rarely applied. In 1991, just over 20% (533 persons) of the total average number of prisoners were in custody awaiting trial.

At the top of the judicial hierarchy is the Supreme Court, located in Oslo. Directly below the Supreme Court is the High Court. There are 5 High Courts, each covering a separate but parallel territorial jurisdiction in Eidsivating, Agder, Gulating, Frostating and H†logaland. Below the High Court are the District and City Courts, which function ordinarily as the courts of first instance. There are 98 District and City Courts. The majority of criminal matters are settled summarily in the forhþrsrett. In 1990, for example, 35,200 criminal matters went to the District and City Courts, of which two-thirds, or 23,800, were settled in the forhþrsrett. Also in 1990, less than 2% of all criminal matters were handled by the High Court at first instance.

The majority of special courts which have been established hear only particular kinds of civil matters. For instance, there is a Court of Impeachment to hear criminal charges brought against government ministers, members of parliament and Supreme Court judges, although it is rarely used. There is also the Court Martial which hears criminal charges on members of the military. This court is made up of one professional judge and 2 military lay judges.

All judges are appointed by the King in Council upon the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice. To be appointed, judges must be Norwegian citizens, financially solvent, and have achieved high university grades when studying for their law degree. Jurists from all professional backgrounds can be appointed as judges. There is no formal system of promotion through the court hierarchy. Deputy judges tend to be relatively young and often have just graduated law school. Lay judges can participate in the hearing of cases. Usually one professional judge and two lay judges hear criminal cases at the District and City Courts. Amendments to the CPA in 1993 have made it possible for more serious cases to be heard at first instance by two professional and three lay judges. Previously, these cases went straight to the High Court for a first instance hearing.

Sentences issued by the courts of first instance (District and City Courts) are determined by a collegium of two lay judges and one professional judge. However, 1993 amendments to the Criminal Procedures Act make it possible for this collegium to be expanded to three lay judges and two professional judges for more serious cases. The 1993 amendments also provide that sentences issued by the High Court are to be determined by three professional and four lay judges. In cases tried by jury, sentences will be determined by the professional judges, the jury foreman and three jury members. Sentences issued by the Supreme Court are always determined by professional judges. If application of the law is upheld, an appeal court cannot alter the sentence, "unless it finds that the penalty is obviously disproportionate to the criminal act committed."

Courts and the prosecuting authority can order that a social inquiry on the charged person be conducted in order to assist them in determining an appropriate penalty. There is also provision for the appointment of various experts to serve either in the capacity of witnesses or in the capacity of lay judges.

The main types of penalties for criminal actions are imprisonment, social service, and fines. The maximum prison sentence is 21 years, of which approximately one such sentence is imposed each year. Crimes that are punished by imprisonment of up to 21 years include murder, rape and serious drug offenses. Offenders can also receive a suspended prison sentence. Suspended prison sentences are usually given to young and/or first-time offenders for lesser crimes. In 1990, 1 in 3 felonies was punished with a suspended prison sentences, either alone or in addition to payment of fines. Community service involves an offender doing unpaid community work for a set time period, with a maximum of 360 hours. It is usually imposed for crimes which can be punished by up to 1 year in prison. It can be combined with payment of fines and, in special circumstances, with a short period of imprisonment. A subsidiary term of imprisonment is usually fixed at the same time that a penalty involving community service and/or payment of a fine is imposed. The subsidiary term of imprisonment takes effect if the community service is not carried out satisfactorily or the fine is not paid. Another type of penalty is detention, a form of custodia honesta rarely applied and dropped in the proposed new Penal Code. However, the proposed Code retains the penalty of preventive detention. Persons who have repeatedly committed felonies of a serious nature and whom a court suspects will commit such crimes once released from prison can be held back in preventive detention. Other penalties which are retained in the proposed new Code include: forfeiture of public and/or private office; loss of the right to vote and to engage in certain enterprises; and prohibition from entering or staying in certain areas. There is no death penalty.



On July 2, 1993, there were 48 prisons, of which 5 were central prisons and 43 were regional prisons. One of the central prisons was for females only. Most other prisons contained prisoners of both sexes. Larger prisons had special sections just for women. There were no prisons solely used for juveniles.

All prisons in Norway are financed and administered by the State.

Those seeking recruitment as prison officers must be Norwegian citizens, between 21 and 35 years old, and be of good health and character. They must also have successfully completed secondary schooling. All recruits must then complete a 2 year course of study at the Norwegian Prison College in Oslo, followed by one year's compulsory service in the prison system.

As a general rule, prisoners are released on parole before the period for which they have been sentenced has expired. Normally, they are released once they have served at least two-thirds of their sentence, which must at least be 2 months, including time spent in custody. In special circumstances, a prisoner can be released on parole after half of the sentence has expired, but this rarely occurs.

There are compulsory work schemesfor prisoners. However, those serving short prison sentences may avoid having to participate in these schemes if it is difficult to find appropriate work activities for them. Prisoners are paid for their work. Prisoners can participate in programs run by the Ministry of Education. These programs are offered at all educational levels (primary, secondary and tertiary).

Prisoners have visitation rights, postal correspondence rights, the right to lodge written complaints, and the right to be allowed outdoors for at least an hour each day. Most prisons have a priest who holds regular church services for prisoners and helps organize social events. At the larger prisons, there are also social workers and sports and recreation advisors whom prisoners can consult. Prisoners are normally allowed to have televisions, radios and magazines in their cells. In special circumstances, they are also allowed to leave prison for short periods, such as to visit a sick relative. There are no special treatment programs for prisoners beyond ordinary medical services, although it is possible to transfer prisoners to other institutions for special treatment if necessary. It is also possible for a prisoner addicted to drugs to enter into a special contract with the prison authorities. In this contract, the prison authorities can offer and provide more privileges on the condition that the prisoner promises not to use drugs and agrees to undergo regular urine tests to ensure the promise is being kept.


Violence against women, including domestic violence, was a problem.  During the year, 653 rapes were reported as compared to 555 in 2000.  The police believe that increases in reported rapes and domestic abuse in recent years have been due largely to greater willingness among women to report these crimes.  The police investigate and prosecute such crimes with vigor.  In 2000 there were 25 convictions for rape.  The average prison sentence for rape in 2000 was 24 months.  Police also have instituted special programs to prevent rape and domestic violence and to counsel victims.  In 2000 a plan of action compromising measures to prevent domestic violence against women entered into force.  The Government initiated a pilot project, including the establishment of the Resource Center for Assistance to Victims of Violent Crime, which is expected to continue until the end of 2002.  Public and private organizations run several shelters that give battered women an alternative to returning to a violent domestic situation.  Each of the country's 19 counties have a number of such shelters.  In 2000 the country's shelters registered 44,498 overnight stays.

There were reports of trafficking in women for prostitution.


Abuse of children was a problem.  During the year, 697 sexual assaults by nonfamily members and 120 assaults by family members were reported, compared to 191 reported sexual assaults on children by nonfamily members and 96 assaults by family members in 2000.  Children's rights advocates have expressed concern that authorities have not pursued investigations in some legitimate cases of child abuse.  The Government continued to examine this problem.  In 2000 welfare services assisted 31,900 abused or neglected children; of these children, 6,147 were taken from their homes and placed in Government institutions or in respite homes. 


No law specifically criminalizes trafficking in persons, although existing labor and immigration statutes may be used to prosecute trafficking cases; however, although such cases are rare, Norway is a destination for women trafficked for the purpose of prostitution, particularly from Russia, according to a 1999 OSCE report.  There also have been occasional reports of children from Russia being trafficked into the country to work in petty theft rings.

Cases of possible trafficking generally may be prosecuted under general laws concerning labor, indentured servitude, immigration, and sexual assault; however, there were no prosecutions for such offenses during the year.  Immigration and law enforcement authorities have begun to pay attention to the problem of trafficking.  The Ministry of Children and Family Affairs coordinates an interministerial working group, which has developed a plan of action to combat trafficking.  The working group also is responsible for implementing resolutions and recommendations from the U.N. and the European Council on trafficking.  During the year, the working group published a report on government measures to combat trafficking. Victims of trafficking in the country had the same legal rights as other foreigners to apply for residency, asylum, welfare, social aid, and emergency health care.  The Ministry of Children and Family Affairs is responsible for assisting possible victims of trafficking; however, most asylum requests by victims have been denied.


Drug production remains rare in Norway because of Norway's harsh climate, and Norwegian regulations governing domestic sales, exports and imports of precursor chemicals. Norway is unlikely to become significant in terms of money laundering or precursor chemicals because prohibitive legislation remains in place, and law enforcement is adequate. Norway has, however, become more popular as a transit country for drugs produced in Central/Eastern Europe and Central/South America. The number of drug seizures continued to rise strongly through 1998 with cannabis seizures accounting for the bulk (44 percent) followed by amphetamines (16 percent). While narcotics production remains rare, the police have been stepping up their efforts to track and intercept drugs in transit (e.g., arriving from Central Europe and going to Nordic and other western markets). Norway is implementing various programs for curbing domestic drug abuse; it has ratified the 1988 UN Drug Convention; and it cooperates actively with international counter-narcotics efforts.

According to Government of Norway (GON) officials, drug production remains rare in Norway because of Norway's harsh climate, and Norwegian regulations governing domestic sales, exports and imports of precursor chemicals. While Norway has become more popular as a transit country (for drugs produced in Central/Eastern Europe and Central/South America), GON officials noted that the rapid increase in narcotics seizures by the police and customs has helped to curb the problem. Norway is unlikely to become significant in terms of money laundering or precursor chemicals because prohibitive legislation remains in place, and law enforcement is adequate.

Norway continues to implement counter-narcotics policy initiatives on several levels. While Norway has not developed an overall counter-narcotics master plan, the Justice Ministry continues implementing an anti-drug action plan to meet the objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention. The key goals of the ministry's plan are to curb the inward flow of illicit drugs, limit illicit drug production, reduce domestic drug consumption, and coordinate with other ministries the fight against illicit drugs activities and related crimes including money laundering. Norway continues to cooperate closely with police forces in Nordic and other countries on drug cases. The Norwegian customs and excise directorate continues implementing its own anti-drug plan aimed at curbing drug imports and seizing illicit drug money and chemicals used for narcotics production. Customs has established a mobile narcotics control unit (includes sniffing dogs), and is coordinating its efforts with the police and the coast guard.

Norway's Ministry of Health and Social affairs continues to implement (educational and other) programs to reduce drug abuse. Norway's Ministry of Defense implements programs to reduce narcotics use in the armed forces. On local government levels, anti-drug campaigns are being launched. For example, a week-long anti-drug campaign was launched in Oslo on November 18, 1998.

According to the GON, Norway remains in full compliance with the 1988 UN Drug Convention because Norway's counter-narcotics plans/initiatives progressed as scheduled, anti-drug legislation was strengthened, and cooperation with the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) remained in place.

The 1998, the number of drug seizures rose rapidly to 16,320 cases from 14,174 in the previous year. GON officials noted that cannabis seizures increased significantly in terms of quantity and number of seizures.

The GON noted some large seizures of cannabis and amphetamines were made in 1998, including one seizure of 357 kilograms of cannabis. The law enforcement effort was stepped up resulting in a record number of persons charged with narcotics crimes. In order to discourage the use of narcotics substances, the authorities increased the fines relating to narcotics offenses. In order to improve law enforcement efforts, the police are calling for bigger budgets and permission to use bugging devices.

Corruption remains a criminal offense in Norway. Norway's corruption laws were broadened in 1998 to cover corruption overseas. This means that Norwegian nationals bribing officials in foreign countries now can be brought to court in Norway. Public corruption remains insignificant in Norway, and no drug-related enforcement measures were recorded in 1998

Cultivation of drugs remains limited in Norway although small quantities of Norwegian-grown cannabis have been detected. Production of drugs also is rare because of the effectiveness of laws governing domestic sales of precursor chemicals.

According to GON officials, the inflow of illicit drugs appears to have increased in 1998, with cannabis being in the lead. Most illicit drugs are entering Norway by trailers from European destinations in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Central and Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary). Some drugs have been seized in commercial vessels arriving from the European continent and Central/South America. The GON officials noted that Former Republic of Yugoslavia nationals have become prominent in Norway's narcotics market.

As noted, government ministries and local authorities have initiated anti-drug abuse programs. According to the GON, the increasing number of drug-related deaths suggests that these programs need further strengthening to become effective. While the maximum penalty for a narcotics crime in Norway is up to 21 years of jail, penalties for carrying small amounts of narcotics remain relatively mild. GON officials opined that stiffer penalties and fines would probably help reduce the drug menace, especially among youths.



Internet research assisted by Seth Ryan Nordseth

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