A juvenile delinquent boy (18) with a refugee background recently received his fourth sentence for serious crime in the Telemark district court. Twice he received a youth sentence. After a month in prison, he says he is glad he was put in prison.

The story of the now 18-year-old boy who for years terrorised the Greenland area with “violence, knife threats and heaps of verbal threats and death threats”, can be read behind a paywall in the Telemark Arbeiderblad:

The student was so dangerous that he was banned from his own school

He terrorised people in Greenland from 2021 until he was put in prison on 30 March this year. He has been convicted of several robberies, violence, knife threats and lots of verbal threats and death threats. The victims are other young people, people at Skogmo upper secondary school, police officers and people who happened to be nearby when he had his outbursts. (TOE)

The history of the undoubtedly dangerous boy is as long as a bad year, but the most important thing about the whole story is not what he got himself to do, but the recklessness and naivety the Norwegian authorities, including child protection and the judiciary operated in dealing with him.

The story is almost an epitaph on the phenomenon of “youth punishment” and should have consequences for Norwegian justice.

Let’s start with childcare:

The boy has a refugee background and went under the radar of the child protection agency for a long time. By the time they got to know him in 2021, he had become so extreme and outspoken that child protection’s measures had almost zero effect.

Magistrate Andreas Skoe Cederkvist describes in the recent judgement how child protection fell short:

“The child welfare service in Porsgrunn municipality first became aware of the defendant in June 2021. In July 2021, he was urgently placed under the Child Welfare Service Act § 4-25. The defendant appealed this placement decision and it was decided that the defendant should move home when the parents wanted. He moved home in August 2021, the child welfare service then decided to implement the MST (Multisystemic Therapy) measure. This is a strong support measure to provide guidance in the home, but the defendant did not want to have conversations with the child protection service. He also expressed that he did not need help. The measure ended in December 2021.” (TOE)

Child welfare gave up, but then the trip came to the Telemark district court, not just once, but three times in nine months in 2022:

On 8 February last year, he was convicted of robbery with a knife and death threats. He was only 16 years old, so you don’t go to prison unless it’s the very last resort. He was therefore handed a youth sentence, which entails regular follow-ups which should ideally lead to a life without crime. It didn’t work well, because after three months he was in court and was charged with a new crime.

On 8 April, he was sentenced again for robbery, gross abuse and threats against police officers. Again the Telemark district court tried with a sentence of youth punishment, but again it didn’t work. When he turned up at the Telemark probation office – together with his mother – to serve his youth sentence, he threatened to cut off the head of a woman who was employed there. He was extremely aggressive and she was so frightened that she was on sick leave for a long time afterwards. Thus the boy – then 17 – had to go to court for the third time:

On 14 November, the boy appeared in court again, accused of making death threats against the woman in Friomsorgen, another robbery and several new death threats. Now he was sentenced to an unconditional prison sentence, he was given 18 months. In addition, he received a one-year suspended sentence. But it took four and a half months before he was called in for sentencing on March 30 this year. In the meantime, he continued to cause mischief. (TOE)

Whether the reasons why he was not immediately sent to prison after the verdict are down to the system’s inherent bias, acute paralysis of action or the quite common Norwegian and bureaucratic disclaimer of responsibility, we do not know, but it should certainly be a lesson for many.

Juvenile punishment again!

On 27 April this year, he was taken from the prison, where he is serving time in a youth unit, to appear in his latest trial in the Telemark district court. He admitted that he was guilty of threats against the policewoman in court, death threats against a young person and a manager at Skogmo, violence against two people and breach of a restraining order against a victim of violence and against Skogmo upper secondary school.

When the verdict was handed down this week, the judges nevertheless chose to believe that the boy had had a positive development after he came to prison and sentenced him to a youth sentence again. The hope is that a one-year youth sentence will help him transition to a law-abiding life when he is released from prison again next year. (TOE)

The judge, magistrate Cederkvist, child protection, the contact teachers and the rest of Norwegian society’s “care apparatus” have dealt with this (and similar) case since the Foldin public school on Bastøy was closed in 1970: Feeling sorry for the boy:

“In his explanation, the defendant has indicated that, given the circumstances, he is doing well during his sentence and that he is happy that he was sentenced. This created a powerful reaction that has broken his destructive behaviour. He states today that he is drug-free, with an offer of training in prison with a view to a vocational certificate (…) as he has wished, and generally seems satisfied with his new everyday life despite strongly missing his family.”

I have no doubt that the boy is sorry and I have no doubt that he misses his family. Perhaps he will also be able to realise his dreams and obtain a vocational certificate. I hope so, for his and society’s sake.

It’s not him I’m mad at.

I am angry at Norwegian legislators and at the apparatus set up to apply the laws.

They must together bear the blame for the fact that thousands of innocent victims every day, every week, every month, every year have to walk in fear of being hit by people like this boy from Greenland.

The student was so dangerous that he was banned from visiting his own school (Telemark Arbeiderblad – payment wall)

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