We could have been faster arresting Breivik, admits Norway police director

Anders Breivik in court

Norwegian police have admitted for the first time that they could have responded faster to the youth camp shooting massacre that left 69 people dead in July.

Officials said the response was slowed by flaws in communication systems and other mishaps, including the breakdown of an overloaded boat that was carrying a SWAT team to the scene of the shooting on Utoya island.

Investigators say the confessed shooter, Anders Behring Breivik, set off a bomb in central Oslo before he drove to a lake outside the capital and took a small ferry to summer retreat for the governing Labour Party's youth wing on Utoya.

He was arrested one hour and 20 minutes later, according to the indictment presented last week.

"I regret we weren't able to arrest the suspect earlier than we did," Oslo Police director Oeystein Maeland told reporters presenting the results of an internal investigation.

"Could police have been faster? The answer is yes," he said. "If the boat hadn't been over capacity, police would have been on Utoya faster," he said.

"If it would have led to another and better result is nothing we know for sure, but we can't rule it out. And it's tough, like I've said before, to think that lives thereby would have been saved."

Police had earlier been reluctant to admit that they could have done anything differently in their response to the attacks, which were unprecedented in Norway.

Though he admits to carrying out the attacks, Breivik rejects the terror and murder charges he faces, saying the victims had betrayed Norway by embracing liberal immigration policies he claims will lead to a Muslim colonisation.

Psychiatrists are evaluating the 33-year-old Norwegian's mental health to determine whether he should be sentenced to compulsory psychiatric care instead of prison.

In either case, prosecutors say he could be locked up for the rest of his life.

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