Faculty of Law

UiB-Professor to lead Commission on Criminal Law Reform as first ever female Chairperson

The first task assigned to the Criminal Law Commission from the government was to evaluate rules affecting participation and recruitment to criminal gangs and organizations, including reform in the rules relating to the recovery or confiscation of proceeds of crime. The evaluations made by the Commission will hopefully add an increased quality to the legislative process and generally for legal development – and not to mention limitation – of criminal law, says the chairperson of the Commission, UiB-Professor Linda Gröning.

Bilde av Linda Gröning
- Similar to other States, Norway has experienced challenges with criminal acts committed by perpetrators engaged with organized crime in gangs, says Linda Gröning, Professor in Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Bergen (UiB).
André Kvalvågnes

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«Both societal change and the ways in which crime evolves would suggest that lesser and substantial reforms are needed in criminal law»

Such a statement was made by the former Minister of Justice and Public Security Jøran Kallmyr (FrP) with regards to establishing the advisory committee on criminal law.

The first task of the Criminal Law Commission was to evaluate challenges related to organized crime. The Commission submitted its initial evaluation on the 12th of March 2020 concerning criminalizing participation and recruitment to gangs involved in organized crime.

Organized Crime Facilitates Insecurity

In the report submitted to the Ministry of Justice & Public Security by the Criminal Law Commission, NOU 2020:4, the evaluation states that constitutional rights and principles allow only for a narrow scope of criminalization. . With organized crime on the rise, violence and threats of violence emanating from gang members will in effect have an impact on the safety of citizens, says Linda Gröning, Professor at UiB.

Professor Gröning explains that criminalizing participation and recruitment to gangs involved with organized crime will simplify prosecuting individuals who engage in serious crimes but cannot be directly associated to the criminal act itself. Criminalizing such participation and recruitment to organized crime can also affect the grounds of recruitment to such gangs.

– A particular challenge is often seen in that young individuals, often represented in vulnerable groups in society, are prosecuted and accordingly convicted for having been recruited into organized crime.

The Criminal Law Commission points out that several principal arguments can be made against criminalizing such participation, and recognizes that the provision criminalizing such behaviour is peripheral to what the Penal Code otherwise should regulate. A unanimous recommendation made by the Commission considers that the Ministry of Justice & Security should consider alternatives to mitigate the risk of harm in such circumstances.

A new NOU addressing law reform in relation to the confiscation of assets or property obtained from criminal conduct has been submitted. On the 16th of September 2020, the Criminal Law Commission submitted its second evaluation NOU 2020:10. It addresses amending the rules regulating the confiscation or recovery of such means.

Professor Gröning explains that gang-related criminal behavior is, in many cases, profit-driven.

– The task related to the confiscation of assets or property obtained from criminal conduct seeks to tackle the incentives at the heart of the gang-related organized crime. In effectively confiscating such means, one might surmise that, to a certain extent, engaging with criminal conduct does not `pay off`.

A Sound Criminal Law Development

– The work undertaken by the Criminal Law Commission will hopefully contribute towards an increased quality in the legislative process and generally good development – and not to mention limitation – of criminal law. In the case where the suggestions made by the Commission is implemented, it would also contribute towards safeguarding the rights of Norwegian citizens. Appropriate amendments to the law will also impose consequences on actors involved in the prosecution and conviction-related procedure, says Professor Gröning.

Background From Tilregnelighetsutvalget

Gröning is a former member of the Crimminal Law Commission, Tilregnelighetsutvalget, appointed by the government in the aftermath of the case concerningAnders Behring Breivik who murdered 77 people in Oslo and Utøye on 22nd of July 2011. The Commission was appointed to offenders, the role of the experts and related issues. Nes rules have been enacted on the 1st of October 2020.

Also see: A question of accountability

Gröning points out that the works undertaken by the Criminal Law Commission is free from any political bias.

– We have strived towards providing a well-reasoned report which deals with the issues raised in relation to the task put before us. We have considered various solutions and their consequences accordingly. Professor Gröning states that through the work dealt with by the Commission, they have established a knowledge base for the coming legislative process.