Five new district courts are established – NRK Norway – Overview of news from various parts of the country

Five new district courts are established – NRK Norway – Overview of news from various parts of the country
Five new district courts are established – NRK Norway – Overview of news from various parts of the country

– This has been a demanding case, with many different opinions, says Minister of Justice Emilie Enger Mehl (Sp) to NRK.

She confirms that the government proposes to establish five district courts, as Aftenposten has learned.

– In some places, merged district courts have worked well, but in other places there are still divided opinions as to whether this has worked as intended, says Mehl.

SATISFIED: The government was actually supposed to restore 37 district courts. But after much opposition in the hearing, the number has become five.

Photo: Christian Ziegler Remme / NRK

Three years ago, the number of district courts was reduced from 60 to 23 and the number of land transfer courts was reduced from 34 to 19. None courts was shut down. The moves were known as the court reform.

The Center Party hammered away at the reform, and together with Ap, the party promised after the election victory in 2021 to reverse the changes.

– But the government promised to restore all the district courts that were closed, right?

– That was the proposal we sent for consultation. So we have worked carefully on this matter, and I am very satisfied with what we are presenting now. I think it will be a good solution, she says.

– You were supposed to restore 37 district courts and end up with five?

– I am satisfied that we have settled this case, and that we can accommodate a good number of the local input that has come.

The government’s proposal will appear in tomorrow’s revised national budget and is twofold:

  • NOK 166 million is being put on the table to, among other things, strengthen the courts, the Bureau of Police Affairs, the Commission for the resumption of criminal cases and the legal aid scheme.
  • At the same time, structural measures are being taken: Five district courts are being restored. The government also proposes to legislate all the courts, so that future changes to the court structure will require a majority in the Storting.

Has taken time

The government has spent a long time coming up with its follow-up to the court reform. The reason for that is that the zeal for reform has waned in Ap, while Sp has been eager to reverse the changes, according to what NRK knows.

– Why has this taken so long?

– We have put this out for consultation and received over 400 responses. We have wanted to balance professional input and local political input. We have gone ahead with a structure where we have relatively large district courts, but where we also safeguard an important local proximity and anchoring, says Mehl.

The Labor Party’s parliamentary representative Odd Harald Hovland was with Mehl when she presented the changes to NRK during a visit to Romerike and Glåmdal District Court in Lillestrøm today.

– For us, it has been important to get a clarification on this matter, not least out of consideration for the employees. This is a solution that provides good organization for the future, says Hovland to NRK.

The magistrate at Lillestrøm says he is glad that there was no split with him.

– I am very happy that we can continue our work in Romerike and Glåmdal District Court. It has worked very well and we have a genuine desire to continue it, says Odd Magne Gjerde to NRK.

– Worked well

The reform of the Solberg government was above all about administration and local management of the courts.

A number of professional circles have warned against reversing the changes. The magistrates from the 23 new district courts have unanimously asked the government to keep the reform, according to Aftenposten.

Økokrim, the Court Administration, former children’s ombudsman Inga Bejer Engh and several state prosecutors have also come out against the announced turnaround.

Supporters of the reform believe the results are good.

– The proceedings go faster and resources are used better, says Høyre’s Ingunn Foss in a letter to Mehl from the Storting.

– The professional environments have become bigger and better and provide increased access to specialist expertise. No courts have been closed, and users have not had to travel further, she says.

Increases the legal aid rate

The government is now also making an attempt to resolve a long-standing dispute with the Norwegian Bar Association over legal aid rates.

Part of the legal certainty package is to raise the rate by NOK 85 from 2023 to 2024 – the highest increase in NOK in over ten years.

The Bar Association has recently campaigned in a way that has affected the investigation of serious criminal cases, despite the fact that the rate has increased from NOK 1,085 to the now proposed rate of NOK 1,265 during the government period.

But on 4 March the Bar Association started its campaign, due to what they believe are significant cuts in the legal aid rate over the past two decades.

Minister for Justice and Emergency Services Mehl believes the government is now going to great lengths to meet the lawyers.

The article is in Norwegian

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