Children in criminal cases are discriminated against. The offended and witnesses have their interrogations arranged. This is not the case for the suspected children.
– Children are vulnerable in the justice system. Although Norway has come a long way in the development of interrogation methodology, suspected children have been overlooked. Norway still does not live up to international obligations, says Sigrid Buseth.
She is the head of investigation at Kripos and has long worked with the interrogation of suspected children. In 2020 delivered she a master’s thesis who showed that children do not understand what rights they have during interrogation, and that they also do not dare to ask.
– They also did not quite understand it with the defender. Who they were, what job they had and why they should be present during an interrogation. This is also seen in the interrogation of suspected children, where the defense counsel is rarely present, Buseth says.
– When the children do not know what they are involved in, one can in the worst case get false confessions, because there is no one there to ensure that the rights are explained in an understandable way. They may experience the situation as pressured, and it is easier for a child to be affected than an adult, Buseth explains.
Confessed in the Silje case
In 1994, three children between the ages of four and six were blamed for the death of Silje Marie Redergård (5). She was subjected to violence and was found cold and dead in a toboggan run in Trondheim.
Gives NRK Brennpunkt so on the case it was revealed that the children had been interrogated where they were not made aware of their rights. Interrogation expert Asbjørn Rachlew believes that the interrogations were illegal, and that the confessions they eventually made were characterized by strong pressure. The case will now be re-investigated, 27 years later.
Police about the Silje murder: No doubt that the investigation was not good enough
The police chief in Trøndelag, Nils Kristian Moe, has previously told VG that the Norwegian police have acknowledged that the interrogation methods of both suspects and children had major weaknesses at the time.
Nevertheless, not everything is as it should be now, says Buseth, who speaks on a general basis.
– There is no requirement that those who conduct interrogations with suspected children must have additional education beyond what you get at the Police Academy, in contrast to offended children and vulnerable people, she says.
For interrogation of offended children and children who are witnesses shall mainly be carried out at orphanages, in facilitated interrogations.
In those interrogations, pediatric advisers are present and the interrogations are carried out by interrogators with special education.
It is to take care of the children, make sure that they understand what is happening, and adapt the interrogation to the child in question.
This is not the case for suspected children.
– It is not the case that they are outlawed, they have the same rights as all other suspects, but there are no rules that make it clear how to word oneself and take care of the pediatric considerations for suspected children.
Buseth therefore believes that suspected children in the most serious cases should be allowed to enter one of the country’s 11 orphanages.
– We lack formal training and requirements for additional education among those who are to interrogate the most vulnerable in the most serious cases, and I think that those children should also be allowed to take part in the pediatric expertise that already exists in the police at the orphanages. , but it should be formalized.
The head of the investigation points out that suspected children are not part of the mandate of the country’s orphanage.
This is also stated in a letter from the Police Directorate to the police districts sent in February this year, which states that interrogation of minor suspected children can generally not be carried out in orphanages until the mandate is extended and access to resources is secured.
– It is up to the chief of police in each district. Some do to some degree, but it should have been in the regulations. The education of those at the orphanage should also go more in the direction of the rights of the suspected children, Buseth believes.
The criminal minimum age in Norway is 15 years, and criminal acts committed by younger children are eventually dropped according to police code 51, dropped because the suspect was under 15 years old.
Figures VG has obtained from the Attorney General show a slight increase in the number of sexual offense cases that have been prosecuted and dropped under that code. Some of the same can be seen in cases involving violence.
There are therefore a number of children who should be eligible for questioning at orphanages.
An ongoing work
Buseth is part of a working group that is now preparing guidelines for questioning suspected children on behalf of the Attorney General and the Norwegian Police Directorate.
– When it comes in place and the police work from them, we are a long way on the way. At the same time, we lack training for both those who are to take these interrogations, those who are prosecuting investigation leaders and not least those at the orphanage who need formal training in the rights of suspected children so that legal security is ensured well enough.