Some duties in the event of violence or abuse
If you work with people and encounter violence or abuse, you have various duties to consider. On this page, you can read a little about the duty of confidentiality, the duty to provide information and the duty to avert criminal acts. Remember that the duty to avert a criminal act always takes precedence over a duty of confidentiality.
Duty to avert violence and abuse
According to the Norwegian Penal Code’s provision on averting criminal acts, everyone is obliged “to report or seek to avert by other means a criminal act or the consequences thereof at a time when this is still possible, and it appears certain or most likely that the act has been or will be committed”.
The duty to avert criminal acts applies to 53 different offences, and 18 of these involve violence or abuse. The duty to avert criminal acts applies regardless of any duty of confidentiality.
You can see which violent and sexual offences this applies to here.
Duty to avert consequences and injuries
If the criminal act has already been committed, your duty to avert criminal acts only applies if you consider it certain or most likely that the act will be repeated. You also have this duty if you, by reporting the situation, could prevent serious consequences of the offence, such as the worsening of an injury that has already occurred.
The duty to avert criminal acts applies to all of us. If you are a professional and have colleagues or superiors who do not share your view that a serious offence will occur, you still have a duty to seek to avert the offence if you yourself believe it will most likely happen. It is the person’s life and health that come first.
Breach of the duty to avert criminal acts
If you fail to avert a serious offence, you can be punished with a fine or imprisonment for up to one year.
The duty to avert criminal acts takes precedence over the duty of confidentiality
As a healthcare professional or employee in a school or kindergarten, you must, as a general rule, comply with your duty of confidentiality, unless there is consent or there is a legal basis that rescinds your duty of confidentiality, such as the duty to provide information to Child Welfare Services or the duty to avert criminal acts.
Teachers and employees in state schools, private schools etc. are subject to a duty of confidentiality pursuant to the Public Administration Act, the Education Act and the Independent Schools Act.
Healthcare personnel and employees in health and care services have a duty of confidentiality pursuant to the Health Personnel Act. The duty of confidentiality also applies to students in training.
You can read more about the duty of confidentiality, consent and exceptions from the duty of confidentiality on the Norwegian Directorate of Health’s website.
The duty to provide information (the “duty to report”)
Most of those who work with people have a statutory or self-imposed duty to report to Child Welfare Services
- “when there is reason to believe that a child is being or will be mistreated, exposed to seriously deficient daily care, or other serious gross neglect,
- when there is reason to believe that a child has a life-threatening or other serious illness or injury and does not receive medical examination or treatment, or that a child with disabilities or a child that needs special assistance does not have his or her special needs for treatment or education met,
- when a child shows serious behavioral difficulties in the form of serious or repeated criminality, abuse of intoxicants or drugs or other markedly normless behavior,
- when there is reason to believe that a child is or will be exploited in human trafficking.”
The duty to provide information to Child Welfare Services is twofold. You also have a duty to provide information upon request from Child Welfare Services.
As a private individual, you have a moral but not a legal responsibility to report information.
The duty to provide information to Child Welfare Services is regulated in Section 6-4 of the Child Welfare Act and is reflected in special laws for various public services and professionals, such as Section 22 of the Kindergarten Act, Section 15-3 of the Education Act and Section 33 of the Health Personnel Act.
Reporting to Child Welfare Services
If you need advice on whether to report a concern, you can call Child Welfare Services and discuss the matter anonymously.
The duty to provide information to Child Welfare Services is individual. Some workplaces have reporting procedures – check to see whether there are procedures in your workplace.
If you think the caregiver(s) may be involved in the violence or abuse, or that they know about it but do not prevent it, do not notify them that you are reporting the matter to Child Welfare Services.