Fengsel eller frihet: Noe om reaksjonsvalg i norsk strafferett


  • Morten Holmboe




The grounds for a given society's punishment of offenders has a long history of discussion. In Norway, deterrence is seen as the basis for the criminal justice system - both in general and as a guide in choosing between types of punishment in concrete cases. General deterrence theory suggests that people might abstain from crime either because of an assessment of its potential risks or because the use of punishment leads to a general habit of obeying the law - and that people rest assured that justice is done, leading to a sense of safety in society. 

If a person charged has made a complete confession, the court shall take this into account when passing sentence. The rule is designed to encourage the guilty to confess, but it is possible that innocent defendants are sometimes tempted to confess in order to avoid harsher punishments.

When a fine is imposed, a sentence of imprisonment is executed if the fine is not paid on time. The authorities begin by trying to get the money from the defendant's legal assets. Seventy-seven percent of the defendants who are supposed to go to prison pay the fine. Does the money come from friends and relatives or from crime?

In 2010, the punishments for several types of crime were increased. Given the theory of deterrence, it would be reasonable to assume that legislators hoped that longer sentences would lead to less crime. Yet when assessing the need for more prisons, there is no discussion of the value of deterrence. 

The theory of general deterrence is also applied in concerete cases. In certain types of cases there are established guidelines for when to apply prison. Nonetheless, general deterrence has been given different weight in comparable areas, e.g. fraud against insurance companies versus fraud against the social services. Certain rules concerning the rights of the convict are based on the kind of punishment (prison or not) that was meted out, e.g. the right to inheritance or insurance. Since a defendant's personal situation can have a considerable bearing on punishment, I question whether the rules should be more flexible.





Holmboe, M. (2016). Fengsel eller frihet: Noe om reaksjonsvalg i norsk strafferett. Nordisk Tidsskrift for Kriminalvidenskab, 103(1), 4–35. https://doi.org/10.7146/ntfk.v103i1.97727