Law change to make criminals pay

Lawbreakers would be forced to contribute to a victim’s fund under a proposal now before parliament

The government and its support party, Enhedslisten, have proposed a law that would require lawbreakers to pay a 500 kroner fine that would help establish a fund to assist crime victims.

The extra penalty will be tacked on to convictions for a wide range of abuses, including some serious traffic violations. The government projects that the fine could bring in as much as 30 million kroner each year.

“This will be a substantial helping hand to victims of crime,” the justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), told Politiken newspaper. “They will be able to receive effective advice and guidance to move forward in life after the terrible things they have experienced.”

Victims will not be able to get cash directly from the fund. Help will be available in the form of grants for counselling, education and other services. Some money from the fund will be invested in research into victim’s issues.

The changes are part of a larger effort to insure that victims' rights are placed in front of, or at least on an equal footing with, those of offenders.

One of the changes will see courtroom procedure altered from the current practice of allowing the defence to present its case before their accuser is heard from. The new law would reverse that order, or allow the accuser to choose whose case was laid out first.

“We would like to move the accuser's testimony in front of the accused’s,” Pernille Skipper, an Enhedslisten spokesperson, told the media.

The new package also includes a provision that would require victims of violent crime to be notified if their attacker will be appearing on television or making any type of major media appearances.

This provision was inspired by the case of Marlene Duus, who was savagely beaten with a metal pipe and thrown out of the window of her third floor apartment by her ex-boyfriend, Frank Saksik. Saksik was sentenced to six years in prison for attempted murder, but was released after serving only two. He then secured a trainee position with renowned chef Claus Meyer and was featured in Meyer’s television programme 'High:Five', which involves former inmates becoming trainees at his bakeries in Copenhagen.

Duus endured over 20 operations and extensive therapy. It took her a year and a half to be able to walk again and her injuries brought her modelling career to an end.

In a commentary in Politiken, she expressed anger that her attacker was being given more opportunities than she was.

“We ought to first help the victim and then help the offender. In Denmark, it is sadly the other way around,” Duus wrote. “He has been given a coveted trainee position ahead of many law abiding competitors simply because he is a criminal and needs help. How far should you go to help a man convicted of attempted murder?”

Duus told Politiken that she was glad that her ordeal has now helped spur changes in the law.