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Final report Council of Europe Campaign to Combat violence against woman including domestic violence - Norway

1. Legal and policy measures
Norway has not adopted new legislation during the Campaign period. This is due to the fact that the Norwegian Parliament adopted a penal provision regarding domestic abuse (section 219 of the Penal Code) on 20 December 2005. The provision came into force on 1 January 2006. The legislative amendment modernises and expands the former section 219 regarding domestic violence, which was outdated, difficult to understand and contained some complicated conditions. In the new provision, it is the perpetrator’s long-term terrorisation and abuse of the next-of-kin that constitutes the criminal aspect of the act.

Section 219 (Domestic violence)
“Any person who by threats, duress, deprivation of liberty, violence or any other wrong grossly or repeatedly maltreats

    a) his or her former or present spouse,
    b) his or her former or present spouse’s kin in direct line of descent,
    c) his or her kin in direct line of ascent,
    d) any person in his or her household, or
    e) any person in his or her care

shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.
If the maltreatment is gross or the aggrieved person dies or sustains considerable harm to body or health as a result of the treatment, the penalty shall be imprisonment for a term not exceeding six years. In deciding whether the maltreatment is gross, particular importance shall be attached to whether it has endured for a long time and whether such circumstances as are referred to in section 232 are present.
Any person who aids and abets such an offence shall be liable to the same penalty.”

Rules regarding ban on contact, etc.: Section 222 a of the Criminal Procedure Act regarding a ban on visits was amended by the Act of 30 August 2002 No. 67 to allow bans on persons staying in their own home. The purpose of this provision is to prevent violence against women and improve the situation for victims of violence. The provision will be particularly relevant when the person who is to be protected shares a household with the person who is the subject of the ban on visits. A ban prohibiting a person from visiting his or her own home may be imposed irrespective of who owns the residence.

Section 222 a (ban on visits etc.)
The prosecuting authority may impose a ban on visits if there is reason to believe that a person will otherwise

    a) commit a criminal act against another person,
    b) pursue another person, or
    c) in any other way disturb another person’s peace.

The ban may be imposed if the person who is to be protected by the ban has requested it, or if it is required in the public interest. Section 107 a shall apply correspondingly.
The ban on visits may entail that the person who is to be subject to the ban is prohibited from

    d) being present at a specific place, or
    e) pursuing, visiting or in any other way contacting another person.

If there is an imminent risk of any act specified in the first paragraph (a) being committed, the person concerned may be banned from staying in his own home.
The ban on visits may be restricted by the imposition of further conditions.
The ban on visits shall apply for a specific period of time, not exceeding one year at a time. A ban on visits to one’s own home may not endure for more than three months at a time. A ban on visits may be maintained only so long as the conditions are fulfilled.

    A decision by the prosecuting authority to impose a ban on visits shall be made in writing and shall state the person who is to be subject to the ban, the person who is to be protected thereby, and the grounds for the ban. This shall apply correspondingly to a decision not to impose a ban on visits. The person who is to be subject to the ban and the person who is to be protected thereby shall be informed of the prosecuting authority’s decision by service of a copy of the said decision. The person who is to be subject to the ban shall also be notified of the consequences of a breach of the ban, cf. section 342 of the Penal Code. If the prosecuting authority rejects a request for a ban on visits, notification shall be given of the right to bring the rejection before the court, pursuant to the third sentence of the sixth paragraph. If there is any risk of delay, the decision pursuant to the first and second sentences may be made orally, but it shall then be written down as soon as possible.
    The prosecuting authority shall as soon as possible, and as far as possible no later than five days after service of a decision to impose a ban on visits on any person, bring the decision before the court. If the time-limit is not observed, the reason for this shall be stated in the court record. A decision not to impose a ban on visits may be brought before the court by the person who is to be protected by the ban. The person who is to be subject to the ban and the person who is to be protected thereby shall be notified of the court sittings. Both parties are entitled to be present and to express their views. The court’s decisions shall be made by a court order. The provisions of sections 184 and 243 shall apply correspondingly in so far as they are appropriate.”

2. Support and protection for victims
As part of the campaign the Norwegian government launched the third plan of action to combat domestic violence for the period 2008 -2011 in December 2007. The previous action plans were launched in 2000 and 2004.

Through this Action Plan, the Government is introducing measures that will help ensure that the police, educational institutions and support services are better trained, better coordinated and more capable of detecting, preventing and dealing with the many complex issues raised by domestic violence. The Government wish to prevent and combat all forms of domestic violence by applying several different approaches:

A. Victims of domestic violence will be ensured necessary assistance and protection.
B. The spiral of violence will be halted by improving treatment services for offenders.

    C. Victims of domestic violence will be offered arranged conversations with the offender (restorative justice).

D. Cooperation between and competence in the support services will be improved.
E. Research and development activities will be initiated and continued.
F. There will be stronger focus on raising public awareness of domestic violence.
G. Domestic violence will be prevented by changing attitudes.

Main goals
This Action Plan is an element of general efforts to combat domestic violence, which include the action plans and strategies that have been initiated to combat sexual and physical abuse of children, sexual abuse (rape), forced marriage and female genital mutilation. These initiatives are mutually supplementary and are intended to ensure a coherent approach to combating violence.

Many measures have been implemented as a result of previous action plans. Legislation has been amended, the police’s efforts to combat domestic violence have been intensified, the women’s shelters have been strengthened, and more attention has been paid to children who experience domestic violence. But we must intensify our efforts even further.

One of the goals of this Action Plan is to ensure that services for the victims of domestic violence come higher up on the municipal political agenda. A special challenge in the coming four-year period will be to strengthen and reinforce local agencies and help ensure that the various services are working towards the same goal. Municipalities have a statutory duty to provide appropriate services for their citizens. However, far from all municipalities and support services have procedures and binding agreements to ensure cooperation on domestic violence cases. We wish to promote cooperation at the local level, to the benefit of users.

In this Action Plan, we wish to take further steps towards ensuring permanent services for victims. We wish to incorporate the good lessons that have been learned from short-term projects into the established services. We will continue to need enthusiasts and development projects, but this work must be incorporated into the ordinary support services to the greatest possible extent so that services do not vanish when projects come to an end. The establishment of special reception centres for victims of violence at inter-municipal emergency clinics and improvements in financial and professional support for such clinics is an important step in the right direction.

Domestic violence often causes serious physical and mental harm to victims that may, in extreme cases, lead to a loss of life. We will therefore make a major effort to strengthen protection for victims. The police play a pivotal role in this effort, but they are highly dependent on close cooperation with other helpers and services in order to be able to provide good protection for victims. Such cooperation must be based on a common understanding of which situations may trigger a danger of violence and threats for victims. One important measure in this plan therefore entails studying murder and manslaughter cases in which the perpetrator is the present or former partner of the victim. Only by understanding these connections will we be able to identify the risk factors and develop good protective measures.

We will provide better opportunities for more people to report cases by extending the right to legal counsel in connection with consideration of whether a case should be reported.

The police’s general work on domestic violence cases will also be strengthened. The main focus must be on obtaining sufficient evidence to be able bring the case before a court of law. Since the victims often have an acute need for help in many areas, whether they be health, finance or other areas, it is important that individual police officers are well acquainted with and cooperate well with other parts of the support and treatment services.

In addition The National Police Directorate has developed a strategy for further developing the system of domestic violence coordinators. The system of domestic violence coordinators was established in each of Norway’s 27 police districts I 2002. The role of the coordinators is to ensure that the police show understanding and insight in their encounters with victims and their next-of-kin. From January 2008, every police district is instructed to have a domestic violence coordinator in full time position. In addition the greater districts are instructed to establish domestic violence units.

Woman shelters
In the past 25 years, women’s shelters have been important actors in efforts to combat domestic violence in Norway. Most of them were established in the period 1980-85. Today there are 50 women’s shelters all over the country. The women’s shelters supplement the official support services and are an important element in the nation’s emergency assistance services. The shelters provide a low-threshold service, offering accommodation, conversation and counselling for women victims of violence and their children on the basis of the principle of help for self-help. The women’s shelters fulfil another important function in that they enable women victims of violence to meet other women in a similar situation. According to Statistics Norway, approximately 1,900 women were residents in the country’s women’s shelters in 2006. The proportion of residents in women’s shelters with minority backgrounds has risen steadily in recent years. In 2001, 32 per cent of all residents in women’s shelters had an ethnic background that was not Norwegian. In 2006 this figure had risen to 56 per cent. One third of these women had been abused by an ethnic Norwegian man. Around 2,300 women used the daytime services offered by women’s shelters’ in 2006.

As part of the plan of action The Government has stated its intention to make the women’s shelters a statutory service. The Government has begun work on this process. A legislative proposal is expected to be ready for general consultation in 2008.

The main reason for providing a statutory women’s shelter service is to ensure that victims of domestic violence receive good quality assistance. An inter-departmental working group coordinated by the Ministry of Children and Equality is considering the introduction of a statutory municipal duty to provide a 24-hour women’s shelter service where victims of domestic violence can find safety, support and care in a critical life situation. The staff at the women’s shelters must be well qualified to deal with especially vulnerable groups, such as women from ethnic minority backgrounds. They must also be well qualified to deal with the needs of children.

Technical aids in the fight against violence against woman.
On 1 January 2004 the police initiated a nation-wide system of mobile violence alarms. Used in combination with other measures, mobile violence alarms are intended to give persons under threat of violence greater freedom of movement and help prevent violence and threats.

The alarm system is based on two geographical positioning systems (GPS and GSM) to ensure that the police can locate the person under threat as accurately as possible. When the alarm is triggered, the person concerned can communicate directly with the police operations centre. To ensure that the system is used effectively in every police district, the National Police Directorate has drawn up special guidelines for the provision of mobile violence alarms. An information brochure and instruction manual has also been prepared for the threat victim/person under threat. As of March 2008, a total of approximately 1,500 alarms were in operation.

As a tool to improve the situation for victims of violence by limiting the action of the offender The Ministry of Justice has established a working group to report on the implementation of a pilot project involving the use of electronic monitoring/tracking in the case of persons who have violated a ban on visits.

The working group has been asked to present proposals regarding the type of electronic monitoring that should be used in the project and to study the need for, and make proposals regarding, solutions for organising electronic monitoring. The working group is to draw on the experience gained by Sweden, the UK, the USA and Spain, all of which have tested or are in the process of testing the use of electronic monitoring of persons who have breached a ban on visits.

The report is to be finalised in spring 2008, and the pilot project is planned to begin in January 2009.

3. Data Collection
As part of the plan of action (2008-2011) surveys of the incidence of domestic violence against children and adults will be carried out, starting in 2009.

4. Awareness Raising
As part of the plan of action (2008-2011) information will be developed and disseminated, targeting the general public, in order to increase knowledge and awareness of domestic violence. This will be done in cooperation with non-governmental organisations, business and industry and other actors.