Norway: Convict wins fair trial human rights challenge

A man convicted of attempted rape, has won the backing of human rights judges in his complaint that he didn‘t receive a fair trial in Norway.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled today that in the case Kristiansen v. Norway (application no. 1176/10), there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the human rights convention.

As just satisfaction, the court awarded 4,000 euros (EUR) (non-pecuniary damage) and EUR 2,500 (costs and expenses) to the applicant, Jørgen Kristiansen, a Norwegian national who was born in 1984 and lives inBorgenhaugen (Norway).

The case concerned his complaint that criminal proceedings against him had been unfair due to the participation of a juror who lacked impartiality.

In September 2008, Kristiansen was convicted of attempted rape. The judgment was upheld on appeal by judgment of a High Court, which sentenced him to one year’s imprisonment on account of this and other offences. It also ordered him to pay the victim the equivalent of 7,500 euros in compensation for damages.

The courts found that Kristiansen, aged 23 at the time, had attempted to rape a 17-year old girl, with whom he had left a party, in a car parked at a petrol station.

During the proceedings before the High Court one of the jurors informed the presiding judge that she had previously had contacts with the victim. Kristiansen’s counsel thus requested that the juror be disqualified from taking part in the proceedings for lack of impartiality.

After deliberations, the court decided that the juror ought not to withdraw. It pointed out that a member of the jury might be disqualified especially if he or she had particular reasons for identifying with the victim. It observed, however, that the juror in Kristiansen’s case had been in contact with the victim only sporadically many years ago, concluding that her impression of the victim was not capable of influencing the assessment in the criminal case. Consequently the juror continued to take part in the trial before the High Court.

Kristiansen’s appeal against the High Court’s judgment, complaining about the juror’s participation, was rejected by the Supreme Court in June 2009.

Relying on Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair trial) of the European Convention on Human Rights, Kristiansen complained that the juror’s participation had made his trial unfair.

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