Life imprisonment in Denmark

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In Denmark, a life sentence (Livsvarigt fængsel in Danish) theoretically means life without parole: that prisoners will spend the rest of their lives in prison. However, prisoners are entitled to a pardoning hearing after 12 years, and upon motion of the minister of justice, the Danish King or Queen may grant a pardon, subject to a 5-year probationary period.

Prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment serve an average of 16 years, more for cases considered to be particularly grave. The only example in modern times of an individual serving significantly more than 16 years in prison is Palle Sørensen, who served 33 years for a quadruple police murder. Criminals considered dangerous can be sentenced to indefinite detention, and such prisoners are kept in prison until they are no longer considered dangerous (normally used for mentally ill criminals). On average, they serve 9 years before being released and then they will remain on probation for 5 years. However prisoners eligible for a life sentence are usually not given indefinite detention, as it is considered a lesser sentence than life.

The maximum penalty for persons who were under 18 at the time of their crime is 8 years' imprisonment, or indefinite detention can be imposed.