Restorative justice at centre of Norwegian mass murderer’s trial

The Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced to 21 years in prison the other week, as the Norwegian justice system deemed him to have been of sound mind when he carried out the attacks in Oslo and Utoya in 2011. The attacks were the most gruesome to ever have taken place in Norway, and Breivik had meticulously planned his actions which left more than one hundred dead and injured.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the focus has been on the format of the trial. Indeed, disappointment and astonishment has echoed around the world as Breivik was allowed to speak in court. Although his court appearance was not broadcasted live, journalists who were in the courtroom transmitted his testimony live. The fact that the court gave him a temporarily platform has been widely criticised as giving him the opportunity to voice his extremist views.

However, far from giving Breivik a platform for his views, the court adhered to an open judicial process which upheld the rights of the accused, but focused on the victims. State-funded legal representation was provided for all survivors and deceased, and the court heard the testimony of both survivors and those who had been left bereaved as a result of Breivik’s rampage. All of this was broadcasted live – as part of a process of restorative justice.

The format of Breivik’s trial, and general conditions in custody, have been significantly different from how terrorist suspects in other countries have been treated and tried. Norwegians have vigorously defended how Breivik and the tragedy was handled by the justice system. The court prioritised the victims’ needs and loss, but never at the detriment of Breivik’s rights.