Mass killer Breivik jailed: why ‘sane’ verdict was so critical

Far-right murderer pleased to be declared criminally responsible for deaths of 77 in Norway

LAST UPDATED AT 12:09 ON Fri 24 Aug 2012

ANDERS BEHRING BREIVIK smiled in the courtroom purpose-built for his trial today as Norwegian judges delivered the verdict he had hoped for: he is sane enough to be criminally responsible for his actions and will go to jail, not psychiatric treatment.

The 33-year-old's guilt was never in doubt – he has boasted about killing 77 people on 22 July last year, rather than denying it – but the court had to decide whether he was sane enough for jail, or should be kept in a secure psychiatric unit.
Finding Breivik sane, the court today sentenced him to 21 years in prison – though in practice he will probably spend the rest of his life in jail.
Breivik had previously said that to be ruled insane and given forced psychiatric treatment would be "worse than death", reports the BBC. He claims his actions were ideologically driven and part of a "necessary" war to stop the Islamisation of Europe. To be ruled insane would, Breivik believed, discredit his far-right ideology.
The Guardian says most Norwegians, the families of the survivors included, will be satisfied with today's verdict. They wanted Breivik to be ruled sane so that he "could be held accountable for what they view as a political crime". Breivik had hoped to start a race war with his massacre.
No – the first assessment of his psychological condition carried out after his arrest found that he was a paranoid schizophrenic. When this result was leaked to the press, causing a public outcry, the court took the highly unusual step of ordering a second assessment from different investigators. This time, Breivik was ruled sane.
Practically speaking, the ruling that Breivik is sane makes no difference to how much time he will spend in jail: either way, he will almost certainly never be released and will die in prison. While Norway has a maximum jail sentence of 21 years, Breivik has been sentenced to "preventative detention", meaning that term can be extended indefinitely if he is considered to still pose a danger to the public.
Normally, an appeal might have been expected at this stage. But his defence lawyer promised earlier in the proceedings that if he was ruled sane, Breivik would not make any appeal. This is good news for the families of victims: Per Balch Soerensen, whose daughter was shot dead by Breivik, said today: "Now we won't hear about him for quite a while. Now we can have peace and quiet."

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Only 21 years?? That's less than 4 months per life. could be out in 10 years, insane! I thought our legal system was a joke! No wonder he smirked when sentenced- 21 years is a joke and is disrespectful to those who lost their lives and the relatives and friends of the victims who are left behind.

Did you not read the article? He will likely die in prison. Max sentence in Norway is 21 years but it can be reviewed and extended in 10 year increments. The victims' families are happy with the result, so that should be an end to it. Norway is in general less punitive than the UK.

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