Norwegians call for tougher laws after mass killing

Political scientist Narud says public opinion has long favored stricter punishment while parliament has resisted cracking down.

Oslo Bombing 311 R 1 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Oslo Bombing 311 R 1
(photo credit: REUTERS)
OSLO - Norwegians believe penalties for serious crimes in their country should be tightened in the wake of a shooting and bomb attack that killed 77 people in July, an opinion poll showed on Monday.
In a survey of 1,283 people conducted six days after the July 22 attack, 65.5 percent said the penalties were "too low" and only 23.8 percent believed they were suitable, newspaper Verdens Gang reported.
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Anders Behring Breivik, the 32-year old anti-Islamic immigration zealot who has confessed to the bombing in Oslo and shooting spree on a nearby island, has been charged by police with terrorism, which carries a sentence of up to 21 years.
He also faces the risk of successive five-year protective custody sentences, and some have also called for the use of provisions on crimes against humanity that could give an initial sentence of up to 30 years.
Justice Minister Knut Storberget told Verdens Gang he was "not surprised" by the calls for stricter laws. "We must listen and have a debate, while not draw hasty conclusions... it's important that policy isn't shaped in a state of panic."
Hanne Marthe Narud, a political scientist at the University of Oslo, said Norway's parliament is likely to stand against immediate public calls for harsher sentencing and more surveillance.
"A lot of these attitudes we see now are reflections of the terror event," she told Reuters, referring to the Verdens Gang poll.
"I don't think the politicians will change legislation on this point as a spontaneous reaction. It may be considered, but there will be a broad debate first."
"In 2001 it was as though someone had declared war against the U.S., which Al Qaeda and those groups had actually done." she added.
"This by contrast appears to be the act of one person who is sick or has his mind in a bubble. You can't really do legislation based on events like we have had in Norway."
She said public opinion has long favored stricter punishment for violent crimes while the parliament has resisted cracking down.
Per Sandberg, chairman of the parliament's Justice Committee, said stiffer sentencing will be on the agenda when party leaders resume debate on August 15.
"My party has always wanted that. I believe there will be new measures."