Sunday, 31 July 2011

Is Breivik British?

Anders Behring Breivik is British. At least he would appear to be. Most (if not all) sources assert that the Norwegian mass-murderer was born on 13th February 1979 in London, where his father was serving as a diplomat. That would make his default nationality British rather than Norwegian.

Prior to the Immigration Act of 1981, British nationality was determined by place of birth rather than by descent. Anyone born here up to and including 1982, even to illegal immigrants or to a tourist just passing through, is automatically a British citizen (or subject, as it was then expressed), entitled to reside here and to a British passport. Of course, Breivik's parentage also entitled him to Norwegian nationality. And he has spent most of this life in Norway. But none of that means that he ceases to be legally as British as I am.

I don't know about Norwegian nationality law, but since he is a dual nationality there's nothing in international law to prevent him from being stripped of his Norwegian citizenship and deported to Britain. He would not be left stateless. Furthermore, such a course of action has much to recommend it, and not just because the Norwegian people might be glad to rid themselves of him. In Norway, he is currently facing a maximum jail term of 21 years, which seems patently insufficient for the psychopathic murderer of 76 innocent people. At the end of his sentence, as things stand, he would presumably be released back into the community.

If he were tried in Britain, on the other hand, it's probable that a British judge would sentence him to life without parole. He could be tried here. Although his crimes were committed abroad, under the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861, English courts have jurisdiction over murder or manslaughter carried out anywhere in the world where the accused has British nationality. The normal course of action is of course to try an offence in the country where it occured. But this is not a normal situation.