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ACCOUNTS OF JUDGEMENT
All interviews are made in Denmark, January – August 2006.


Bodil Nyholm, Social worker.
“I work in a 24-hour-duty, where you experience all kinds of things, and where decisions have to be made, here and now, it's three o'clock in the morning, people are drunk, screaming and shouting, children are crying. You have to make up your mind fast: what will you do now?
What would you do if it was your neighbour or your family? That's what I often ask myself, when I'm in the middle of these situations and there's no one else to ask. And then I act upon that.
But it has taken time to come so far, because I have always tried to find the answer somewhere else: what would my boss do, what would the other colleagues do, what does the law say – but that won't bring you anywhere when the office is closed! You have to take responsibility yourself. And sometimes you do right and sometimes wrong. But I think that if I do my best, then I can stand by my actions.
For example, there could be a situation where you come out in the middle of the night and there is trouble, the parents are drunk and there's a child. The neighbour comes in and says I can take care of the kid – so there you have a choice; you can put the child in a children's home, or you can listen to the neighbour. That's much less invading for the child, if the drunken parents can agree upon it.
You have two options and they are both legal. So you must decide: should I go for what's 110% correct, where nobody can blame me afterwards, to put the child in the 24-hour institution, - or should I do what is probably better for the child, but also more insecure, because I have not checked these people's record at 3 o'clock in the night.
But I think it is OK with that neighbour, I can look into their home, they are not drunk, and the child seems to be all right with it. So I take responsibility for that decision – in favour of the other.”


PETER GARDE, Criminal judge.
“…so one might say that judgement is to delimit, to sort out the arguments that the good person - who would like to take everything into consideration – would sort out. And then judge upon what we lawyers call legally relevant.
There might be cases where I regret a verdict, or where I wish I had messured the punishment a little different, one way or the other. But generally, when I have worked my way through to a decision, I stand by it in my heart.And when I say that I am content in my heart, I mean that if at all I think about the case afterwards, it's with the resignation of the mature person: that what I did I had to do, and I couldn't do otherwise.
To a considerable extent you use your intuition. If the solution does not come by it self then I should say that one uses intuition. There's a good saying among lawyers that if in doubt, you often reach the result by instinct first and write down the argument afterwards.
In a situation like that, when you afterwards work your way towards the solution, the good judge might suddenly fall in doubt and say to himself, hey, what am I doing here? This is not correct what I instinctly jumped into. Maybe it's the opposite solution we must go for, let's try and see, - and then work your way through the material once again, with clever consequences. So you must have the courage and the willingness to say, well the first decision was wrong, we must take the other instead.
Yes, you must be alert.”


ABU HUSSEIN. Sales assistant.
“…even before the school parties begun people would come up to me and ask: can't you let me in, and I have a friend who wants to come along etc.
But me, I'm responsible to the board, the principal and the other students, because in the end, it will fall on them if a window is crashed or some trouble comes up, then they'll be without parties in the future.
I have been forced to say no, even if, when you look at it culturally, we can't really say no, it's very impolite to say no to people. That's where you go the long way round ending up with: well, I don't think it's such a good idea…
This is before the parties. Then when the party is on, people come and say: can't you open the back door, or can't you talk to the guards. And this is where judgement comes in, because: what is right and what is wrong?
I don't loose anything by letting them in. So this is where you have to think a little further and say, this will hurt 5-600 students, people that you see every day, while these others are persons I see maybe once a month or what ever.
If I was standing in front of some Danes I could be straight forward and say: the rules are clear, one, two, three, you can't come in, have a nice evening. But when I'm talking to a group of immigrants, I can't spell it out like that; I have to say it in a nice and polite way, because you mustn't hurt other people's feeling. And that's the most difficult of it all.
In my culture, you have an easy way with rules and regulations, compared to Denmark . So if this had taken place in the Middle East , people would probably just have been let in. But as long as we are here in Denmark , I can't do that because regulations count more in this country, more than family and friends and what have you. So you have to go for the regulations.
And if there was something in those regulations that I couldn't stand for then I wouldn't have taken this task, being in the committee.
Because basically, what's the meaning of doing things you can't stand for?”


PIA HOSTRUP, Leader of a Youth Work Project.
“It can't be avoided that me and my team move to the limits. And some times, in the eyes of some people, over the limit. We fail. I fail. I still do. I don't know if I fail more or less over the years, but I probably fail in other ways, in new ways. Even if you learn from your experiences and seldom make the same mistakes, there seems to be room for new ones – throughout life!
My old boss, whom I liked very much, used to say: in your job you get your nose hurt if you stick it out too far, but you have to stick it out at least once or twice a year, or else you have not been moving enough forward!
So even if it's not very agreeable, you have too stick out your nose, or else there will be no development.
Right now we have a lot of psychiatric patients among our young ones. Many of them are cutters, self destructive in all kinds of ways. Anxious, depressive. Which is quite different from the ones we are used to: young people with a lot of show and a funny understanding of reality - where they see themselves ending up being the new president. Or at least number one in class, in spite that they fail even to read properly.
So right now we have a group who are much more skilled, competent in many regards, but who don't believe in them selves.
I have quite a temper in the way I work, unlike some of my colleagues who are more thoughtful. My thoughtfulness usually doesn't come until night time – that's when I think, o-oh, was this the right thing to do? But I get carried away in the situations I'm in, and that sometimes takes me places I didn't plan to. And then I must make it up with my self afterwards, how I feel about acting the way I did.
I have broken the regulations, but I stand by my actions. To the extent that I could say at the police station: go ahead and punish me. I don't keep things back.
Sometimes you have to hope for forgiveness, when permission was not possible.”


KNUD HELGE NIELSEN, Police officer.
“I have the ability to see when these young people lie to me. Then I say to them: you might as well tell me the truth; because this was not the way it happened.
And when they start talking the truth, I can see it in their eyes, and I say to them: now I can see you are telling me the truth, keep on doing that.
When I began working in the police force in 1972 – I was born and raised in the country side, and the world was very small. Then I came to Copenhagen and got enrolled in the police.
We were trained to do police work: there are bandits out there; they have to be caught, and put into prison. That's the way we were trained.
Later on I got the opportunity to participate in courses about human life and development and children's development of identity and things like that. I caught more and more interest in how we can keep these young ones from becoming criminals, in stead of us running around trying to catch them. It doesn't make sense to throw them to prison, if we could get hold of them and talk to them long before things end up like that.
It happens quite often that we have situations where we get a report about a young person, and we don't believe what we hear until we have talked to them our selves. And some times it can be correct what the colleagues have reported, but I tell you, most of the time it isn't!
And that's a classical example of the clashes we have here at the station, between officers who meet these youngsters when they are in the confrontation phase, and judge them because of that. They don't know, or they don't think about – it's not a question whether they have the knowledge, because they would probably have it if they got some more insight – but they don't think about the reason why these young people want confrontations, and the reason is that they want some attention.
The more insight you get in people the more you develop an understanding that there are incredibly many ways in meeting people and talking to them – children, teenagers or parents – and giving them the power to do something by themselves. Because that's what really counts.
The police life that I've had, - when I was younger I didn't use my judgement very well, I just said: follow law and order or go to prison - but it is so much more satisfactory to do things the way I do it today.”


LARS CHRISTENSEN, Consultant.
“Those in powers at that time, they were against, and they had the money and the land. But political correctness said that they should go through with these land reforms and that the indigenous had the right to their land and they had deeds to prove it. So legally they were in their right, but the persons in power, ministers, vice ministers etc. they were very much against, because they had an uncle who had a finka down there and they had possessions them selves, so they were about to lose power over the resources…
And there I am in a situation where I can sit as a representative of an important donor, and say: You have to go though with this reform if you want money from us. And that will get me no where, it will only bring me into a confrontation and then nothing will happen. So we can dictate something and we won't be able to spend our money because resistance will pop up here and there in the system, because they don't want things to change.
Then I can go in and say to the minister: what would you suggest, how do you think we should solve this? And right there, that's where I go in and invite him out in the public space to act and become the person he is. So that's where we both meet, because I also have to come out in that space. And play with open cards, and you have to listen to what is being said, you must dare to be open towards his suggestions and actually use some of it, in order to solve the conflict.
Before you get that far you must acknowledge your own cultural background, stand clear on your own basic values, what you stand for as a person. Having recognized that – first then - you have the courage to go out and set it all at stake.”


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