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Basic Facts about the Country

Membership of the European Union

1 January 1973

Membership of the Council of Europe

6 May 1949

Entry into force of the European Convention on Human Rights

3 September 1953

Basic Facts about the Judiciary

Budget per inhabitant

Number of professional judges per 100,000 inhabitants


Tiers in the ordinary court system


District Courts


High Courts (appeals)


Supreme Court


Maritime and Commercial Court


Land Registration Court


Special Court for Indictment and Revision


Constitutional Court


Public Prosecutor

Autonomous institution acting under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice and led by the prosecutor general

Gender breakdown of judges

All instances


Supreme court

View source

Judicial Governance

Type of governance system

Court service model

National Court Administration

  • Formally falls under the Ministry of Justice, but is independent. The minister has no powers of instruction and cannot change decisions made by the Court Administration.
  • Is headed by a board of governors and a managing director
  • The Board of Governors has 11 members, eight of whom are court representatives, one a lawyer, and two who have special management and social insights. The Board is generally liable for the activities of the Court Administration. The director – who is appointed and may be discharged by the board of governors – is responsible for day-to-day management.

Judicial Appointments Council

  • The Council has six members.
  • The Council’s members are appointed by the minister of justice, and consists of one Supreme Court judge and one High Court judge, proposed by the respective courts, one district court judge, proposed by the Danish Association of Judges, one lawyer, proposed by the Bar and Law Society, and two representatives of the general public, proposed by local government and the Danish Adult Education Association.
  • Council members are appointed for four years, without the possibility of re-election

The Special Court of Indictment and Revision

  • Consists of one judge from each of the Supreme Court, a high court and a district court

External Activities Review Board

Court presidents

  • Proposed by the Appointments Council, appointed by the minister, except for the Supreme Court president, who is selected by the Supreme Court judges, from among themselves. This procedure is not formalised. Normal practice is that the college of Supreme Court judges appoints two judges, who themselves have no actual interest in being a president, to find out by way of confidential talks with colleagues who have such an interest. When the candidates have been identified, the college makes the choice by a confidential ballot, in which the winner has to obtain more than 50 per cent of the votes.

Danish Association of Judges

Distribution of Responsibility

National Court Administration
  • Was established in 1999 to ensure proper and adequate administration of courts. Prior to its establishment, these functions and responsibilities were placed in the Ministry of Justice.
  • In charge of the administration and development of courts, including the allocation of courts’ budgets and the management of buildings and systems related to information and communications technology
  • Does not handle judicial appointments, but serves as secretariat to the Judicial Appointments Council
  • No competence in the area of disciplinary proceedings
  • Employs deputy judges, recruiting them either directly from law school or after they have had a few years of experience in law firms or at ministries
  • Is responsible for the training of all court staff, including the judges and deputy judges\
  • Regularly participates in legislative preparatory work and hearings, and provides advice on legal matters, policy proposals, etc. that affect the judiciary, directly or indirectly
  • Plays an active role in negotiating the budget to be allocated to the judiciary. This happens through the channels of the Ministry of Justice. The Ministry delegates the budget (appropriations) to the Danish Court Administration, which, in turn, allocates the budget to the courts. Ultimately, the economic responsibility for the judiciary lies with the board of governors of the Danish Court Administration. The Board can address the parliament directly with a budget proposal should they find the appropriations to be insufficient.
  • Decisions are final and cannot be changed by the Ministry of Justice
Judicial Appointments Council
  • The Council makes non-binding proposals for the appointment of judges to the Ministry of Justice, which then proposes them for formal appointment by the executive (the monarch). There have been no cases in which the executive has not followed the proposal of the Council.
  • The candidates for the Supreme Court membership chosen by the appointments Council are vetted by the judges of the Supreme Court, before the appointment is confirmed.
  • The Council also makes proposals for the appointment of court presidents to the Ministry of Justice. As an exception, the Supreme Court president is selected and appointed by the Court’s own judges.
  • The recommendations Judicial Appointments Council must provide the reasoned for its recommendations. The Council can recommend one applicant for a vacancy. If there is no agreement on the candidate, the question is decided by a vote. In the event of a tie, the chairperson (a Supreme Court judge) casts the decisive vote. It must be stated in the Council’s appointment if there has been disagreement about the recommendation, and the views of individual members must be stated.
The Special Court of Indictment and Revision
  • The Special Court processes complaints against judges. It also acts as a disciplinary court in cases of the suspension or removal of judges from office. The decisions on the removal can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Court presidents
  • Can impose disciplinary measures, e.g., a warning to a judge for neglecting duties or behaving improperly, but cannot dismiss a judge. In cases of grave neglect or criminal acts, the court president has to ask the Court Administration to start a disciplinary procedure by the Special Court of Indictment and Revision.
  • May be asked by the Judicial Appointments Council to give their opinion of the candidates for a vacancy, but the Council makes the decision
  • Can dismiss court staff
  • Decide on the composition of court’s sections and panels
  • Appoint judges that coordinate/head a section or a division
  • Have limited ability to manage the court budget, because they are bound by decisions made by the Court Administration
  • Are not in charge of the uniform application of the law within the court – these matters are discussed on a regular basis in plenary meetings among the court presidents and the judges.
External Activities Review Board
  • Any judge must apply to the External Activity Review Board for permission to take a secondary job with a fixed income, for example, as chairperson of a council or a committee.
Minister of Justice
  • Proposes judges and court presidents (except for the Supreme Court president) recommended by the Judicial Appointments Council for appointment by the executive (the monarch). There have been no cases in which the executive has not followed the proposal of the Judicial Appointments Council.


Under-resourced judiciary

Danish courts have experienced an increase in pending cases and processing times in recent years. While the justice system remains efficient overall, the average case handling times for district courts, notably on civil and criminal cases, continue to increase. The Copenhagen District Court, the largest first instance court, issued a press release in January 2023 stating that, in view of its financial and personnel situation and growing case numbers, many cases had to be re-scheduled to 2024 and later.


The problem of backlogs could be solved by providing adequate resources to the justice system. In its 2022 and 2023 reports, the European Commission urged the authorities to “ensure adequate human and financial resources for the justice system in the next multi-annual framework, taking into account European standards on resources for the justice system.” Denmark spends only 0.16 per cent of its GDP on the justice system. It has 6.6 judges per 100,000 inhabitants – one of the lowest figures in the EU.


The new government platform Ansvar for Danmark (Responsibility for Denmark) indicated that the processing times at the courts were too long, which challenged legal security for both injured parties and the accused. It also stated that the government would reduce the processing times by simplifying legal proceedings.


While the government has made some additional resources available as a short-term solution to combat backlogs, the need for a long-term solution remains – one that would provide courts with the necessary additional resources to be able to hire more judges, assistant judges, and staff, as well as to increase courtroom capacity. According to a study commissioned by the Danish Bar Council and endorsed by the Judges’ Association, approximately EUR 188 million (DKK 1,4 billion) in additional funding would be needed to address the long waiting times by 2030, and if no additional resources were to be allocated, the case processing times would presumably at least double by 2030.

Positive Developments & Achievements

The engagement of political actors in decision-making on judicial careers and court administration does not seem to endanger judicial independence. The minister of justice cannot change decisions made by the Court Administration. While proposals of the Judicial Appointments Council are not binding, there have been no cases in which the executive did not follow the Council’s proposals.

The level of perceived judicial independence continues to be very high among both the public and businesses. Overall, 86 per cent of the public and 85 per cent of companies perceived the level of independence of judges and courts as fairly or very good. According to data in the 2023 EU Justice Scoreboard, the level has consistently remained very high for both the general public and companies since 2016.

Rankings and Surveys

Expert Recommendations

European Commission, Rule of Law Report, 2022

Overall, concerning the recommendations in the 2022 Rule of Law Report, Denmark has made:

  • Some progress on ensuring adequate human and financial resources for the justice system in the next multiannual framework.


On this basis, and considering other developments that took place in the period of reference, it is recommended to Denmark to:

  • Ensure adequate human and financial resources for the justice system in the next multiannual framework, building on the increases in 2023, taking into account European standards on resources for the justice system.

Compliance with European Courts' Judgements

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

State Performance


Number of unimplemented CJEU rulings related to the judiciary

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

State Performance

Very good

Implementation record


Number of leading judgments pending implementation Very Low

60 %

Percentage of leading judgements from the last 10 years still pending implementation Very High



Average time leading judgments have been pending implementation Low
Non-Implementation of European Courts Judgments and the Rule of Law | EIN & DRI

Judgements with pending implementation

Selected on relevance to the judiciary / rule of law

K.K. and others v Denmark,

The case concerns the disproportionate interference in the right to private life of two children, born in Ukraine in December 2013 through a commercial surrogacy agreement, due to the refusal of the authorities (ultimately confirmed by the Supreme Court in November 2020) to allow their adoption by their intended mother (violation of Article 8 – right to respect for private life of the children).

The Court was not satisfied that the Danish authorities, when refusing to allow the adoption, had struck a fair balance between, on the one hand, the specific children’s interest in obtaining a legal parent-child relationship with their intended mother, and, on the other, the rights of others, namely those who, in general and the abstract, had risked being negatively affected by commercial surrogacy arrangement.

View case details



Savran v Denmark

The cases concern expulsion orders combined with permanent re-entry bans following criminal convictions, finally upheld during proceedings requesting revocation of the expulsion order in May 2015 (Savran) and during criminal proceedings in January 2019 (Abdi). The cases concern “settled migrants” who arrived in Denmark at a young age. The Court found shortcomings in the balancing exercise of relevant interests performed by the national authorities and that the expulsion orders constituted disproportionate interferences with their right to private life (violation of Article 8). The national authorities should have taken more adequately into account issues such as the applicants’ strong ties to Denmark and lack of ties to the countries of destination, certain aspects of the assessments of the nature and seriousness of the criminal acts committed (including in the case of Savran that he was suffering from a serious mental illness at the time of the offence), the risk of reoffending following a change in personal circumstances since the offences had been committed (Savran) as well as the permanent nature of the re-entry bans.

The authorities submitted an action report on 15 May 2023 which is currently under assessment. Its main content has been summarised below.

The Government submitted a proposed bill on 28 April 2022 containing amendments to inter alia section 50, 50a and 50b of the Danish Aliens Act. The purpose of the proposed bill was, inter alia, to follow up on the European Court’s judgments in the cases Savran and Abdi. The amendments were adopted by Parliament on 8 June 2022 and entered into force on 23 June 2022.
Firstly, the amendments clarify in section 50a of the Danish Aliens Act that the Danish courts, in connection with a subsequent review of an expulsion order, must make a full examination of whether the enforcement of the expulsion would be in breach of Article 8 of the Convention.
Secondly, the amendments make it clear that the Danish courts, in connection with a subsequent review of whether an expulsion order must be revoked pursuant to sections 50, 50a and 50b of the Danish Aliens Act, must be able to reduce the period of the imposed re-entry ban.
The authorities have also provided examples of domestic case law showing how practice is now aligned with the Convention requirement.
The authorities also consider to change the wording of section 977 of the Danish Administration of Justice Act so that it will be clear that the Danish Prosecution Service can apply to the Special Court of Indictment and Revision for resumption regardless of consent from the convicted person, when the European Court has stated in the case that the Convention has been violated.

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Aggerholm v Denmark,

This case concerns the inhuman or degrading treatment in 2013 of a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia who was strapped to a restraint bed in a psychiatric hospital for nearly 23 hours (violation of article 3). Whilst the initial decision to strap him to a restraint bed was justified because he represented a danger to the staff and other patients at the hospital, the continuation and duration of the restraint measure was not strictly necessary and not respectful of his human dignity.

The authorities underline that the doctor’s decision, in the present case, to maintain the restraint measure based on the applicant’s “potential” danger to others was not in accordance with domestic law, which requires the danger to be “immediate” or “imminent”. To ensure that the medical staff at psychiatric hospitals understand the conditions in the law, the Health Authorities have elaborated and clarified the conditions for restraint measures in the existing guidelines.

To avoid situations like the present case, where there was no assessment by a doctor for a period of almost twelve hours, the Mental Health Act has been changed. The change has introduced specific intervals between the three reviews of patients who are submitted to compulsory restraints by the doctor and established a duty for the permanent guard to make on-going written descriptions of the state of patients submitted to compulsory restraints at least every 15 minutes. The first review of the patient must take place four hours, at the latest, after the decision to use compulsory restraint measures. The following reviews must take place with no longer intervals than 10 hours. The new legislation entered into force 1 January 2022.

In their most recent submission of 11 July 2022 two NGOs (Dignity and Better Psychiatry) and an NHRI (The Danish Institute for Human Rights) argue that the case should be triggered up to the enhanced procedure; and urge the Danish Government to allocate more resources to the psychiatry field in order to enable the institutions to apply existing knowledge and experience on how to reduce the use of means of restraint in psychiatric wards and to introduce effective legal guarantees supporting the overall principles of the Danish Mental Health Act.

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