Underage Manslaughter Suspects in Custody at Youth Rehab Centre

The three underage suspects in a manslaughter case that occurred last week are in custody at the youth rehab centre Stuðlar, Vísir reports. The fourth suspect in the case is 18 and is currently in custody at Hólmsheiði Prison. Chief Superintendent Grímur Grímsson of the Icelandic police’s central investigative department told RÚV the case investigation is proceeding well. The case has sparked concern among experts of increased violent behaviour among Icelandic youth as well as xenophobia towards the immigrant community.

The four teenagers are all of Icelandic origin and are suspected of manslaughter in the stabbing and death of a 27-year-old Polish man in Hafnarfjörður last week. According to RÚV’s sources, one of the suspects recorded the attack on their phone. Police are investigating whether the video is being shared.

Underage suspects placed in isolation

The four suspects were at first placed in isolation for the interest of the investigation, with one of the underage suspects initially housed at Hólmsheiði Prison, a facility for adults. That suspect has since been moved to Stuðlar youth rehab centre where the other two underage suspects are being held. It is unusual to keep suspects under the age of 18 in isolation, but the decision to do so was made in the interest of the investigation. The suspects were provided with therapy and consultation and efforts were made to reduce the negative impact of the isolation. The custody ruling on the four suspects runs out on Thursday. At least one of the four has appealed the detention to the Court of Appeal (Landsréttur).

Violent behaviour more normalised among youth

The case has shocked the local community, with some experts concerned about growing xenophobia as well as increased violence among youth in Iceland.

Criminologist Helgi Gunnlaugsson says the belief that carrying and using weapons is normal has gained a foothold among certain groups of youth in Iceland. Young people often don’t seem to understand the dangers and consequences of using weapons, according to Helgi, who says a concerted effort is needed to address the problem.

Helgi told Vísir that a certain polarisation is taking place. While society in general has less tolerance for violence of any kind, “At the same time, among young people, especially men, often on the margins, it seems to be happening that this idea arises that it’s simply natural and justifiable to carry various kinds of weapons. And not only carry these weapons, but also even use them if some sort of conflict or disagreement comes up.”

“Many people need to participate in this, to uproot this use of weapons and the ideology behind it. It is in essence not just one party, law enforcement, that can do it,” Helgi says. “Rather school authorities, families, after-school centres, and more, must also come together to make us, and especially young people, aware of what is at stake.”

Empty Jails And Unlocked Doors – The Myth Of the Crime-Free Paradise

Iceland witnessed four murders in total in 2017 – one of them the harrowing murder of 20-year-old Birna Brjánsdóttir. Birna’s murder shook Icelanders to the core, a deep blow to the nation’s psyche that somehow felt like an attack on the nation as a whole. A fisherman from Greenland named Thomas Møller Olsen was sentenced to 19 years in prison for Birna’s murder, the heaviest sentence given in 23 years. But the event was still disquieting to many – how could this be happening in Iceland? How did we let this happen?

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