Life imprisonment in Denmark

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In Denmark, a life sentence (Danish: Livsvarigt fængsel) is the most severe conviction under the Penal Code and reserved for the most serious crimes.[1] People receiving a life sentence in Denmark often do not spend the rest of their lives in prison, but can request a pardoning hearing after 12 years. If the hearing is successful, the Justice Minister (or someone authorized by the Minister) grants a pardon, subject to a parole period of up to 5 years.[2]

Prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment serve an average of 17 years.[1][3] A person with a life sentence will not be released if it is considered likely that the offender will recommit. This means that some offenders have served a considerably longer time than the average and in recent history there are four where this has surpassed 30 years: Naum Conevski (da) (34 years as of 2018, still incarcerated in the closed unit of Sankt Hans Hospital), Palle Sørensen (33 years, released in 1998), Seth Sethsen (da) (32 years as of 2018, still incarcerated) and William Brorson (da) (32 years, released in 1978).[1][4]

Murderers are eligible for a life sentence, but it is generally only used when the person has a previous history of committing serious crimes or the murder is considered particularly grave. Otherwise a murderer will typically receive a time limited sentence, which can be up to 20 years in Denmark.[2] In recent history all people receiving a life sentence have been murderers, but a person committing treason, use force against the Danish Parliament, espionage during wartime, terrorism, arson under circumstances that are life-threatening, hijack a vehicle under aggravated circumstances or willfully release nuclear substances is eligible for a life sentence.[2]

On average, slightly more than one person receives a life sentence each year (14 from 2006 to 2018), and in 2015 there were a total of 21 people serving a life sentence.[3]

"Custody sentence" and "placement sentence"[edit]

Criminals considered dangerous can receive a "custody sentence" (Danish: forvaringsdom) instead of a life sentence. This can also be used for certain crimes where a life sentence is not possible, such as rape, violence and aggravated robbery. It is often used for people with deviant personalities (for example, antisocial personality disorder) and is typically served in the Herstedvester Prison.[5][6] It should not be confused with a "placement sentence" (Danish: anbringelsesdom), which is reserved for mentally ill people that are ineligible for a normal prison sentence and serve their sentence in a closed unit of a psychiatric hospital.[5][6] A custody sentence always lack a time limit and a placement sentence often lack a time limit, but both are subject to periodic pardoning hearings.[6][7] A review covering 1990–2011 showed that on average a person with a custody sentence was released after 14 years and 7 months.[8]


A person who was between 15 and 18 years old at the time of their crime can not receive a life sentence, but is eligible for all other penalties in the Penal Code.[2] Until 2010, their maximum possible sentence was 8 years or a "custody sentence".[9] A person that is under 15 is below the age of accountability and can not receive a prison sentence.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Disse personer har siddet længst tid bag tremmer i Danmark" [These people have been imprisoned for the longest time in Denmark] (in Danish). TV 2 News. 2 October 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Straffeloven §33, §41, §98, §99, §102, §111, §113, §114, §180, §182, §183, §192, §237" [Danish Penal Code §33, §41, §98, §99, §102, §111, §113, §114, §180, §182, §183, §192, §237] (in Danish). Retsinformation (Civilstyrelsen, Ministry of Justice). 24 September 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b Maach, M.L. (12 April 2018). "Overblik: Så mange har fået livstid de sidste ti år" [Overview: This many have received life imprisonment in the last ten years] (in Danish). DR News. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Dobbeltmorder bliver ikke prøveløsladt" [Double murderer will not be paroled] (in Danish). TV 2 News. 9 October 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  5. ^ a b Brun, A. (23 February 2016). "Det betyder en forvaringsdom" [The meaning of a custody sentence] (in Danish). DR Øst. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "Indsat uden slutdato" [Convicted without end-date] (in Danish). Herstedvester Fængsel. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Efter dom" [After the convicted] (in Danish). Psykiatrien i Midtjylland. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  8. ^ Quass, M.L. (28 February 2017). "Ekspert i kriminologi: Forvaring er en særligt streng sanktion" [Expert in criminology: custody sentence is an especially severe sentence] (in Danish). DR News. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Forslag til Lov om ændring af straffeloven, retsplejeloven og lov om erstatning fra staten til ofre for forbrydelser (vedtaget)" [Proposal for law changing the Penal Code, law of ownership and law of compensation from the State to victims of crimes (adopted)] (in Danish). Retsinformation (Civilstyrelsen, Ministry of Justice). 1 June 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2018.