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When the country closed down in March, thousands of planned criminal cases were postponed in Norwegian courts.
Many of the cases had already been pending for a long time then the corona situation led to a further accumulation in the period between March and June.
Many of the courts are still struggling to deal with the large backlog.
In the West police district, the management chose to contact a former employee. She has now been given leave to work as a substitute prosecutor in Bergen District Court until February.
– I thought it was very positive, and that I wanted to help take away cases, says Silje Thuen Høgheim.
When the request from the police came, she had to apply for leave from her current job as a lawyer in Tryg Forsikring. Fortunately, the employer did not mind asking.
– That I was granted leave shows an understanding of the socially critical function that the prosecution has, Høgheim says.
Over 3000 cases pending
Figures from the Court Administration show that at the end of October, there were 3920 ordinary criminal cases in Norway that had not been processed. Usually this number is approx. 500 fewer cases.
At the same time, the courts closed a total of 3978 cases in the period 1 August to 31 October.
The high number is due to both fewer cases received and the fact that many judges have been employed in temporary positions this autumn.
Prosecutor Gunnar Fløystad in the West police district says that getting rid of more criminal cases is a high priority.
– When the cases are scheduled and go to court, they have often become quite old. The more cases we can get done in the pandemic situation, the better, says Fløystad.
Gets added more money
Both Bergen District Court and the West Police District have received extra corona funds from the state to be able to carry out more court proceedings.
According to Judge Arne Henriksen, three judges were hired in the Bergen District Court this autumn who only work with ordinary criminal cases.
In March and April, the number of remaining cases increased rapidly and passed over 4,000, according to the Court Administration. The extra appropriations have meant that we have nevertheless got off to a good start in taking care of the backlog.
Bergen District Court, for example, has managed to settle a total of 60 more criminal cases in September and October compared with last year.
In the West police district, two new police lawyers will be hired to keep up with the case load.
– Unfortunate to postpone
Silje Thuen Høgheim will act as a substitute in the district court until February next year.
The lawyer is clear that postponing criminal cases has several unfortunate consequences.
– It can be a great burden for both the offended and the accused who are waiting to have their case decided. I am happy to be able to help with that, says Høgheim.