Features of the Norwegian Criminal Justice System

In Norwegian criminal procedure the prosecution is responsible for investigating the case and has an obligation to investigate all evidence, whether incriminating or exculpatory. While the court primarily acts as an impartial referee between the defense and the prosecution, the judge has a duty to ensure that the case is sufficiently investigated before rendering a judgement. 

In most cases, the accused is entitled to his defense being paid at the public expense.

Mediation through the Norwegian Mediation Service (Konfliktrådet) can in certain cases be used as an alternative or supplement to the courts.

You can access the penal code in English here.

  • The prosecuting authority in Norway

There are three main levels of the Prosecuting Authority in Norway: The Prosecuting Authority in the Police, The Regional Public Prosecution Offices (PPO) (Statsadvokaten), and The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) (Riksadvokaten). Norway’s prosecuting authority is unique in that the lowest levels of the prosecution are integrated within the local police. You can read more about the structure of the prosecuting authority on the High Prosecuting Authorities’ website here.

In addition to this basic three-tiered hierarchy, there are other specialist prosecution authorities that work alongside the ordinary prosecuting authorities. These include the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (ØKOKRIM); the National Criminal Investigation Service (KRIPOS) which works, among other things, with complicated investigations that span over multiple police districts or countries; and The Norwegian Bureau for the Investigation of Police Affairs, an independent bureau that investigates police misconduct.

The National Police Immigration Service is not part of the prosecuting authority but can assist immigration authorities with registration, identification and deportation of immigrants. This organ also runs the National Police Immigration Detention Centre (“Trandum”).

  • Penal sanctions

There are several different penal sanctions in Norway. 

A person sentenced to unconditional imprisonment (ubetinget fengselsstraff) must serve his sentence in prison. Norway’s prison system is comprised of high security prisons, low security prisons and halfway houses run by the Norwegian Correctional Service. A sentence of up to six months unconditional imprisonment may be served through electronic monitoring (ankle bracelet). Most prisoners can apply for probation after serving two-thirds of their sentence.

A person sentenced to a suspended sentence (betinget fengselsstraff) can avoid serving a sentence in prison if he or she fulfills certain conditions. Common conditions include residing in a particular geographic location, completing school or training and refraining from alcohol consumption.

Youth under 18 years of age who commit serious crimes can be sentenced to a recuperative process in court (ungdomsstraff) in which a unique plan for the individual’s sentence is developed. 

A person can also be sentenced to community service (samfunnsstraff) or fines (bøter). Individuals who are unable to pay their fines can receive an alternate sentence of community service for fines (bøtetjeneste). 

Preventative detention is a sentence in which the offender risks being imprisoned indefinitely, but can only be given if an ordinary sentence is deemed insufficient. A preventative detention can be prolonged for maximum five years at a time after the initial sentence is served. 

Individuals who due to their mental health are unable to serve their sentence in a prison or were unaccountable at the time of the offence can be transferred or be committed directly to compulsory psychiatric treatment. 

You can read more about penal sanctions in Norway here.