Norway police chief quits over Breivik report

Oeystein Maeland. Photo: 13 August 2012
Image caption Oeystein Maeland said he could no longer continue in his job

Norway's police chief Oeystein Maeland has resigned after an inquiry found that mass killer Anders Behring Breivik could have been stopped last year.

Mr Maeland took up his post days before Breivik murdered 77 people in a bombing in Oslo and a gun attack on a summer camp on Utoeya Island.

The independent report said on Monday the bombing could have been prevented.

It also criticised the "unacceptable" amount of time which police took to respond to the shootings.

The tone of the inquiry was also markedly different from an earlier police report which concluded that none of the officers on duty had hesitated in carrying out their duties.

Damaging report

The resignation of Mr Maeland was revealed by Justice Minister Grete Faremo during a TV debate late on Thursday.

Mr Maeland said later that he could no longer continue in the job without the minister's confidence.

"If the ministry and other political authorities do not clarify this matter unequivocally, it will become impossible for me to continue," he said in a statement.

Among the most damaging of the report's conclusions is that a two-man local police team reached the lake shore first, but chose to wait for better-trained colleagues rather than find a boat and cross to Utoeya themselves.

Image caption Breivik is due to be sentenced on 24 August

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said shortly after the report was published that he deeply regretted the mistakes that had been made and took responsibility for what happened.

But he stopped short of saying there would be ministerial resignations.

Breivik, 33, admits carrying out the murders on 22 July last year but denies criminal guilt.

His 10-week trial ended in June and a verdict is due to be announced on 24 August.

The panel of five trial judges will have to rule on Breivik's sanity when they deliver their ruling.

Their conclusion will determine whether he is given a long prison sentence or is sent to a secure psychiatric ward.

The attacks, regarded as the worst act of violence in Norway since World War II, sparked a national debate about the nature of tolerance and democracy in the country.