Breivik trial: Survivors’ relief over prison sentence

Anders Behring Breivik arriving at the court in Oslo Breivik has always insisted he is sane

Relatives of Anders Behring Breivik's victims and survivors of his attacks reacted with relief as an Oslo court found him to be sane and sentenced him to at least 21 years in prison.

Breivik had earlier said he would not appeal against a sanity verdict, and many here had wanted to see this long trial end.

"I feel happiness because he is a man who all the time knew what he has done," said Unni Espeland Marcussen, who lost her 16-year-old daughter Andrine at Utoeya. She was one of the very last people Breivik killed.

Yet Mrs Marcussen said she did not think 21 years in prison was enough for the man who killed her daughter.

"I think he should get 21 years for each he murdered. But I also know when the time is coming when he maybe should get his freedom, they have to find out if he is dangerous for society still, and if he is he won't come out."

One of those Breivik tried but failed to kill on Utoeya was Tore Sinding Bekkedal. He managed to hide in a storeroom while Breivik killed 69 of his fellow Labour youth members.

He too was happy the court found Breivik to be sane - something Mr Bekkedal had believed himself while watching the trial from inside the courtroom.

Start Quote

I will never get my daughter Andrine back, but I also think that the man who murdered her has to take responsibility”

End Quote Unni Espeland Marcussen Victim's mother

"He's not suffering from psychiatric insanity, he's suffering from political insanity. And I'm worried it's contagious", said Mr Bekkedal after the verdict had been passed.

Conflicting conclusions

Many other survivors and relatives of the victims also welcomed the sanity verdict.

Mette Larsen, a legal representative for many of the bereaved, said said: "I think it was a correct decision, my clients are very relieved right now because they felt he was not insane. If he had been ruled insane, nobody would have understood."

Few, if any, defendants in a Norwegian criminal case have been subject to the same psychiatric scrutiny as Anders Breivik. Two teams of court-appointed psychiatrists came to conflicting conclusions about his sanity.

The court also heard from several senior psychiatrists, including some who had observed Breivik in prison. They all said they believed he was sane.

"This will imply a deeper debate concerning the premises and the methods for how forensic psychiatrists work," Pal Groendahl, a senior forensic psychologist who had followed the trial closely, told the BBC.

"We're in the middle of that debate and of course this reinforces such a debate due to the fact that two of Norway's most renowned court psychiatrists said that he was insane. Now the court says he's sane."

This is unusual. Whenever experts cast doubt on a defendant's sanity, Mr Groendahl says, the court often rules that he is insane as treatment is generally regarded as preferable to prison.

The trial of Anders Breivik might now be over and for many of the bereaved, this will be a chance to move on. They will have to live with their loss for the rest of their lives, but see Monday's verdict as a form of closure.

Unni Espeland Marcussen, mother of 16-year-old Utoeya victim Andrine, said it felt good to know her daughter's killer was now behind bars, perhaps forever.

"I will never get my daughter Andrine back, but I also think that the man who murdered her has to take responsibility, and that's good."

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