In the trial following the terrorist attacks on 22 July 2011, three lay judges will sit with two professional judges. Together these five judges have the task of deciding whether the defendant is guilty and, if so, the appropriate punishment.
When reaching their decision, the lay judges' votes carry the same weight as those of the professional judges.
Two additional lay judges will be appointed to act as deputies in case one or more of the sitting judges is unable to continue.
It is now over 100 years since the Norwegian Parliament (the Storting) decided that independent citizens, by acting as lay members of the judiciary and by sitting on juries, should use their common sense and good judgement to determine questions of guilt and innocence. The intention was to provide a corrective counterbalance against official power and the establishment.
Lay persons play an important role in Norway's judicial system. The fact that citizens can participate in trials and express their sense of justice by judging in criminal cases is seen as guaranteeing the rule of law.
In the district courts, lay judges sit together with professional judges to decide criminal cases. In the courts of appeal, the lay judges' main function is to sit on juries, although they also sit as judges (as in the district courts) in some types of cases. In Norwegian, the general word for a lay judge (lekdommer) covers both a lay person sitting as a judge (meddommer) and a person sitting on a jury (lagrettemedlem). A lay judge who is sitting as a judge in a criminal trial functions on equal terms with the professional judges. Like the professional judges, he or she has to decide whether the defendant is guilty and, if so, the appropriate punishment.
Every district court must have two panels of lay persons, one made up of women and one of men, from which lay judges are drawn. Each court of appeal must also have two panels, one of each gender. Members of the latter panels may be appointed either as lay judges or as members of juries.
The people who serve on these panels are appointed by the local council for a period of four years.
To be a lay judge, you need to fulfil certain statutory requirements, including:
You must be aged at least 21, have the right to vote and qualify for election to the local council. You must be either Norwegian, a citizen of a Nordic country or have been entered in the Norwegian National Population Register as domiciled in Norway for the past three years. It is also essential that you speak and understand Norwegian. There are also requirements concerning lay judges' respect for the law.
Members of some occupational groups are not eligible to serve as lay judges. These include MPs, police officers and lawyers.
Siden ble sist oppdatert: 04.04.2012, kl. 17:13