One of the lawyers representing Utøya’s aggrieved warns possible police hesitation to investigate all of Anders Behring Breivik’s attempted murders may spark a civil law suit.
Police lawyer Pål-Fredrik Hjort Kraby has said prosecutors may drop these charges against the mass murderer in cases where nobody was hit. Authorities argue they are considering this because resource use would outweigh legal consequences. Breivik is already indicted for murder and bodily injury, and there are already indications that he could receive the law’s maximum sentence.
Saying considering a civil suit “is one of several possible outcomes”, counsel representing some of the aggrieved, Sjak Haaheim, warns, “The chances of a thorough civil lawsuit will increase depending on the extent of criminal charges from the Public Prosecutor,” Klassekampen reports.
Speaking to The Foreigner, he elaborates, “We have no well-known legal map for dealing with terror in Norway. Our compass is however to secure the rights for the victims. This means we cannot rule out any legal strategy at the moment”.
Mr Haaheim, a former police lawyer, represents 24 of those who tried to save Utøya youths by helping them into their boats. He fears legal officials are employing some sort of victim ‘ranking’ system.
“One could, of course, choose to drop investigating a lesser offence in cases where one is charged with serious violence and stealing some milk chocolate, for example,” he says to Klassekampen..
“However, the Prosecuting Authority has never dropped charges for such a serious offence as attempted murder out of consideration to the size of resources needed to investigate the matter, not even regarding post-War damages,” adds the lawyer.
Moreover, the Court of Appeal refused 13 of his clients the right to counsel last week, which he says he will appeal to the Supreme Court. Five of his clients are children.
“It’s not just Norwegian law that applies in this case. Norway is also a signatory to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child. These children have been in mortal danger and are suffering the same Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as those who were actually on Utøya.”
According to the paper, Co-counsel Cathrine Grøndahl is in favour of Breivik also being charged with attempted murder, despite that most criminal legal experts do not believe this will affect his sentence.
“It’s for two reasons: The aggrieved want answers too, and to see the perpetrator convicted for what he has done to them. The other is out of consideration to legal state’s reputation. Dropping attempted murder charges out of consideration for resources is not particularly honourable,” she says.
Meanwhile, Nordre Buskerud Chief of Police Sissel Hammer says today police officers were only told there was one gunman on Utøya at the time of the shooting, contradicting earlier claims.
“Emergency Services at Drammen Operations Centre were told of several possible perpetrators. This was passed on to Nordre Buskerud’s Operations Leader at approximately 17:54, but the information was not immediately forwarded to the [two] personnel [who reached the island first],” Aftenposten reports her as writing in an email.
Her statement concurs with a police report it has read by one of the officers who arrested Breivik, according to the paper. One officer’s report shows there was “one person of Norwegian origin dressed in a police uniform who was shooting on Utøya.”
He stated the response team only reported the multi-perpetrator possibility to him afterwards. Aftenposten says both the team and their sources in Oslo District Police confirm they thought they were dealing with several, however.
Politicians and several of the aggrieved have sharply criticised police from deviating from their training for these types of situations. As well as questions surrounding the police helicopter, officers have also been censured for delay caused by substandard equipment.
“It’s important to underline that the information about one or several perpetrators did not influence police assessments made prior to the arrival of the response team. The most significant obstacle that prevented [officers] reaching Utøya was the lack of a boat,” says Chief of Police Hammer.