We all know that the Norwegian fjords and forests are probably the most inspiring and beautiful examples of nature at its best. Just ask Edvard Grieg or simply listen to his music of Peer Gynt or his four Norwegian dances.
Those young Norwegian people camped out on their beloved island thought so too, till their serenity was cruelly interrupted by being killed. Seventy seven shot dead. A mass killer was on the loose. His name is Anders Behring Breivik. His court case is yet to start but it seems likely he will not be charged of any crime but declared criminally insane and will spend time in an asylum. A 240 page report has been presented to the Norwegian Prosecutors office by three psychiatrists. The assessment was made after thirteen interviews with Breivik.
Here in Australia as in England an insanity plea is extremely hard to be successful. We are not so far advanced to accept that sometimes evil is done by sick people, indeed we are still struggling with accepting the idea of ‘mental illness’ and feel safer to lock those up in jail that have ended up doing terrible things.
Some years ago a similar deed was done by a blond Tasmanian. His name was Martin Bryant. Suddenly one Sunday he opened fire and thirty three were dead. It would not be beyond the law of averages to accept that an examination by three eminent psychiatrists would also have found him insane and for the prosecutor and Courts to have heeded to that. No such luck for the mentally ill Martin. He now languishes in a jail cell instead of in a hospital or asylum where he would still enjoy some kind of life. We concentrate on retribution, punishment, forget about insanity, and lock the bastards up, for life, forever, good riddance.
Not long ago there was another terrible deed by two young children who had walked another even younger child along a railway line, stoned him and killed him. This time it was in England, a country that was still hanging children not all that long ago and sent convicts away from home and hearth to Australia for having stolen butter or bread. The act of legal “Gibbeting” was abolished before the hanging of children which was abolished in 1908.
The two children Thompson and Venables responsible for the killing were deemed to have known right from wrong and charged with murder then sentenced for many years to juvenile detention. England became somewhat divided but generally, the retribution enthusiasm succeeded above that of the principle of ‘doli incapax’ that presumes that children cannot be held legally responsible for their actions.
There have been countless books and even more movies made of the case, endless controversy that still pops up including a documentary about how that case would have never resulted in criminal charges being laid in Norway.
Norway’s 1994, in Trondheim, five year old Silje Redegard was beaten to death by two little boys. Today, the girl’s family still suffers and one of the boys is in trouble again- echoes of the Bulger case are clear. The public reaction in Norway has been startlingly different. Here are some of those differences.
The children involved were younger, but the most significant difference was that in Britain, the authorities decided to let the nation of its people judge the child killers. The children in England were tried as small adults and the media did, as they still do today, (keenly in contempt of Court), calmly and deliberately release mug shots and names of the boys. A roar of revenge was a result of the blood curdling and minute publication of the details of the killings. All this media hysteria was whipped up much to the disadvantage of Thompson and Venables, but it made millions by the media and salved the revenge seeking population in frenzy of hate towards the two children, stirred up by that same media.
What the Norwegian case demonstrates that it needn’t have been that way. In Norway, the initial response to the killing of that little girl was that of horror. What sort of monster did this? Revenge was foremost as well. When the news broke through that two little boys had done this, the hysteria for ‘blood’ died down and the case left to run its course without the media getting involved. There was no sensational reporting of the case in the Norwegian press. I doubt whether many of us here in Australia have even heard of this case. In Norway, even the mother Beathe Redergard felt bad for the little boys, even in the middle of her grief for having lost her daughter, because they were just’ little kids’. They were just six years old but even if they had been ten or eleven, it would have been dealt with the same way. Norway forgave and forgot its child killers.
The names of the two boys were never published, their anonymity have been protected even till today.
Those Norwegian woods will remain witness to terrible deeds, but no amount of the blood soaked soil will ever bring the victims back, nor will revenge on an insane and mentally ill person.