Danes hope to double ‘ghetto’ sentences

Danes hope to double ‘ghetto’ sentences

A plan to double the penalties for offences committed in deprived “ghettos” in Danish cities has provoked outrage among rights groups. 

The right-of-centre Conservative government is expected to unveil more details of its plan to impose more severe punishments in areas with relatively high numbers of immigrants. Lawlessness risks creating “parallel societies”, the government says.

Around 10 per cent of Denmark’s 5.6 million population are immigrants, 10 times more than in 1980.

Justice minister Søren Pape Poulsen told the Berlingske newspaper: “In these areas, it is clear that the sword of justice will fall more heavily.” Violent crimes in these neighbourhoods would result in sentences or fines being doubled, he said.

“If there has been more vandalism, violence, threats and so on, then the local police chief can say that this is now a harsh penalty zone, and the penalty will be doubled when you commit a crime there.”

He denied that harsher penalties in one area could drive criminals into other districts.

“It has to be safe to live anywhere in Denmark,” he argued.

The government’s “ghettos” have populations of more than 1,000 where more than 50 per cent of residents are non-western immigrants, with the latest list including 22 districts.

The government estimates that 28,000 immigrant families “live in a parallel society”, making up around half of the “ghetto” populations. The largest ethnic groups in that category were Somali at 44 per cent and Lebanese with 41 per cent, the ministry reported.

The latest proposal was part of a drive to eliminate “ghettos” by 2030, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said.

The police would be given discretionary powers to enforce “double punishment”.

Denmark’s figures suggest it is has about half the crime of Britain.

The second largest party, the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, is likely to support the move. It also supports Rasmussen’s proposal to ban the Islamic full-face veil.

Activists said everyone should be subject to the same penalties.

Brigitte Arent Eiriksson of the Justitia think-tank said: “Where there is rule of law, it is very, very important that everyone is equal before the law. But I find it difficult to see how that could be the case with this proposal.”

Keld Albrechtsen, the head of an NGO that works in deprived areas, said the plan would penalise “youngsters who are on a path to delinquency… I don’t think what they need is more repression,” he told the media. “They need someone to help them get out.”


“Ghetto” Høje Gladsaxe in Copenhagen. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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