The Judges Association of Denmark says that the government’s plans to conduct
court proceedings at the Vestre Fængsel prison in Copenhagen gives the wrong
signal; that the courts are the extended arm of the prison service.
“A courtroom as an appendix to Vestre Fængsel prison sends an unfortunate
signal,” says association chairman, High Court Judge Mikael Sjöberg.
“It is vital that the courts appear independent, dignified and neutral in
order to maintain public confidence,” he says, adding that in building
courtrooms around the country, it has been important for the courts to
distance themselves from authorities such as the police and prosecution.
The idea of holding court hearings in prison was launched by the prime
minister during Saturday’s Social Democratic congress. Justice Minister
Morten Bødskov issued a news release on the subject on Monday.
“We have had hearings in connection with people from the biker and gang
environment in which we have seen threatening behaviour, and attempts to
free them have resulted in hazardous situations,” Bødskov says.
But Sjöberg says that police already place a heavy guard on cases deemed
He believes that the reason for the government’s proposal is a wish to save
money on police guard duties and transporting suspects through Copenhagen.
At the same time, Sjöberg says he is puzzled as to why the justice minister
has refrained from seeking the views of the country’s judges.
In the future, according to the Bill, remand hearings are to be heard in the
new high security courtroom – even though there is no particular danger.
Both the Frederiksberg and Copenhagen municipal courts will be holding
preliminary and remand hearings in the new building at Vestre Fængsel
The reason, according to the notes to the Bill, is to ensure “the appropriate
and effective use of resources”.
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