Danish Criminal Procedure – Chapter 1: Introduction

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1 Introduction

Very few people have tried to give a description of the Danish court system in English and when they have done so, their descriptions of the criminal courts are invariably very brief. A fuller description may, however, be of some interest for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it may be of some help to practitioners who increasingly have to deal with legal problems stretching into several jurisdictions, though it has to be admitted that if that had been the main purpose.an.account of civil procedure would probably be of greater help. At least those extradition cases that have made their way into the headlines of the press have been more concerned with substantive law than with the adjective.

Secondly, the unmistakeably English origin of Danish criminal procedure is remarkable when for centuries Scandinavian legislators have been oriented towards the continent rather than towards Britain. Indeed, only after the Second World War did English rise to be more important than French and German as a second language. To this day it remains much more common to look towards the continental countries for legislative inspiration than towards Anglo- American jurisdictions.

A comparison of Danish and English criminal adjective law therefore seems to suggest itself as an obvious subject of research. Particularly so when it is remembered that the developments in Danish law since the reception of the jury trial have been independent of the developments in English law.

While preparing this survey, the following English texts on Danish procedural law have been available to me:

Hans Gammeltoft Hansen: The law of procedure. From: Danish Law – a general survey; G.E.C. Gads Forlag, Copenhagen 1982.

Leigh and Hall Williams: The management of the prosecution process in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherland’s; James Hall, Leamington Spa 1981.

Judicial Organization in Europe; Morgan Grampian on behalf of the Council of Europe, London 1975.

Apparently one more survey of Danish procedural law exists, namely:

Bernhard Gomard: The Law. The Judicial System. From: Denmark – an official handbook; Kraks Forlag, Copenhagen 1970 and 1974.

of the available texts, the one by Gammeltoft Hansen, who is former professor of procedural Law and present parliamentary commissioner (ombudsman), is by far the best, though the translation is unfortunately blemished by a number of mistakes. As far as substantive criminal law is concerned a good account is available in:

Vagn Greve, Ole Ingstrup, Sv. Gram Jensen & Martin Spencer: The Danish system of criminal .Justicer,Department of Prison and Probationr Copenhagen 1984.

One major problem when describing a foreign legal system is that translation of legal terms is very difficult. The question is that of either making one highly specific Danish set of concepts fit into the equally specific English vocabulary or defining a totally new English vocabulary by literal translation from Danish. The latter course I found, resulted in an illegible text and I have consequently used the nearest contemporary British i.e. English equivalent as a standard. It must, however, be remembered that most terms cover slightly different concepts in Danish law. A few examples may be useful. The Danish word “rigsadvokat” covers the head of the prosecution authorities and has traditionally been translated “attorney general”. This rendering is, howeverr unsatisfactory, as he is a civil servant and not a minister. After the recent changes in the English system, I have chosen to use the term Director of Public Prosecutions.

In the above mentioned texts the word “byret” has been translated as: lower court, district court, and municipal court. The literal meaning is: Town Court. “Byretter” are basically courts of the first instance in both civil and criminal matters, but such a court does not exist in English law. I have chosen to call them “Town courts”, but any of the other words may well be equally appropriate.

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