The right-wing Danish People's Party has proposed punishing close relatives of juveniles if they defend or condone sexual assaults by minors in their custody, an idea supported by legal experts, the daily newspaper Berlingske reported.
Danish People's Party immigration spokesman Martin Henriksen has pledged to present this idea to Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen, once parliament returns from the summer break.
"If, say, a child commits rape, and it can be proven that parents have neglected their duty of care and bear responsibility for their children becoming this way, it should be fully possible to punish the parents," Henriksen said.
The Danish People's Party, which is currently part of the Danish government and maintains a hard line against immigration, also wants to deport parents of children found guilty of crimes when possible.
The proposal for harsher laws pertaining to minors came in the midst of a high-profile case, in which six youths of non-Danish descent were recently charged with the rape and attempted rape of five girls aged 13 to 16 in northern Zealand.
While a local policeman described the events as a "self-service table" and "thoroughly unheard of," local parents have supported their children by saying rape had not taken place and that the girls didn't tell the truth about what had happened. The Danish People's Party wants to make this sort of behavior punishable under the new law.
The idea received a warm welcome in Danish legal milieus. Law professor Ole Hasselbalch of Aarhus University said that tightening laws in this way was fully possible from a legal perspective. He also stressed that rules that allow parents to be punished for offences committed by children already exist, as encouraging someone to commit violence already is a crime.
Jørn Vestergaard, a professor of criminal law at the University of Copenhagen, stressed that it was not a Danish tradition to punish someone for the crimes of others, but argued that doing so nevertheless was fully possible. However, he also stressed that enforcing such rules in a meaningful and effective way would be much more difficult, as it is hard to determine whether parents exercise control over the child and whether the punishment will be neither reasonable nor helpful.
By contrast, the Danish People's Party's government allies, the Liberals, have argued that the call for parental punishment was unrealistic. According to the Liberals, the police would have a hard time proving that parents actually goad their children into committing sexual offences.
"This will be pretty impossible to enforce in practice," Liberals legal spokesman Preben Bang Henriksen told Berlingske, dismissing the idea as a "parade proposal."
At present, the minimum criminal age in Denmark is 15 years.