One in four community service sentences are never carried out

One in four community service sentences are never carried out

A quarter of community service sentences are never or only partially carried out, according to new figures from the probation service Reclassering Nederland. Thousands of people sentenced to community service either fail to show up or are sent home for aggressive behaviour or breaking the rules, broadcaster NOS said. In 2013, there were problems with one in five community service sentences, but this rose to over one in four last year. This means in 2015 almost 11,000 people failed to carry out their sentence. The public prosecution service says that eventually 93% of community service sentences are carried out successfully, but this figure includes people who were sent to jail instead because they did not keep to the community service rules. A spokesman for the probation service it is ‘incredibly important’ that they do go to jail. ‘Perpetrators should not escape their sentence,’ he said.  More >

Geert Wilders trial must be halted: lawyer

Wilders’ fewer Moroccan comments should be judged on election day: lawyer The lawyer representing anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders in his discrimination court case said on Friday that the MP's comments about 'fewer Moroccans' should be judged by the public on election day. Geert-Jan Knoops was speaking during a third day of procedural motions ahead of the main trial at the end of October. In Friday's hearing at the high security court at Schiphol airport, Knoops said the case against Wilders should be dropped. 'Statements made by politicians should be dealt with by public opinion or via the ballot box,' Knoops said. Now judges are being asked to rule on something which is part of the PVV's election manifesto, he said. 'This is a programme embraced by nearly one million voters,' he told the court. 'You are being asked to do an impossible job. And this case is also impinging on my client's right to freedom of expression.' Chanting The case dates back to a post election meeting after the 2014 local vote. Wilders is on trial for discrimination and inciting hatred after leading supporters in an anti-Moroccan chant after the polls had closed. The chanting, and other comments made several days earlier, led to two MPs, MEPs and a handful of local and provincial councillors breaking ties with the PVV. The public prosecution department also received over 6,400 complaints. Judges will not decide on the application today. If they do reject the claim, the main trial will start at the end of October. Nine days have been set aside for the hearings. Wilders' PVV is currently level-pegging in the opinion polls with the ruling VVD Liberals with around 22% support. The Netherlands will have a general election next March.  More >

Legalised marijuana growing a step nearer'

One in four community service sentences are never carried out A majority of MPs now seem likely to back draft legislation from the Liberal democratic party D66 which would regulate legalised marijuana cultivation under government control. The bill, drawn up by MP Vera Bergkamp, was backed by Labour, GroenLinks, the Socialist and pro-animal PvdD. But now two MPs who left the anti-Islam PVV to form a breakaway right-wing party have said they too will support the measure, the AD said on Friday. Bergkamp hopes that introducing licenced marijuana production will remove the grey area between illegal cultivation and licenced cannabis cafes or coffee shops, where small amounts of marijuana can be bought for personal use. ‘You can buy weed but you can’t grow and transport it, and that is wrong,’ Bergkamp told broadcaster NOS. ‘If we regulate it, that will be good for health and to control criminality. A large percentage of the population and local councils support the measure as well.’ Quality controls The new law will also introduce quality controls. ‘People nowadays have no idea what they are smoking,’ Bergkamp said. The bill envisages coffee shop owners buying their produce from licenced growers who produce the marijuana in a closed system. Producers will have to meet certain conditions and be checked by officials. Optimistic Even though there is a general election next March, Bergkamp is optimistic the bill can be passed by the lower house of parliament before then. The bill has already been looked at by the Council of State advisory body and its recommendations have been included in the revised version. Research by Radboud University earlier this year said legalising cannabis production would have benefits for public health and human rights. The study found that illegal cannabis production was linked to criminal violence, fires, environmental and noise pollution and the spread of legionella bacteria. However, the government remains opposed to the idea. Justice minister Ard van der Steur says the report’s findings are no reason to change policy on cannabis cafes. The researchers had not proved that crime would be reduced with legalised cultivation and that it would also conflict with the official strategy to discourage youngsters from taking up the habit, the minister said earlier this year.  More >

Global cover to stay in health insurance

One in four community service sentences are never carried out The cabinet has dropped plans to remove global emergency healthcare coverage from the basic health insurance package. Health minister Edith Schippers wanted to scrap the universal healthcare commitment from next year, but it has proved too complicated to implement, the ministry said in a short statement. Schippers had hoped the measure would cut €60m from the health ministry budget. Other cuts will now be made to make up for the shortfall, the ministry said. Holidaymakers are insured outside the EU if they have an accident or require emergency treatment up to a certain limit. Payments are based on the cost of treatment in the Netherlands.   More >

Many discrimination complaints unanswered

Social media overload: many discrimination complaints go unanswered The public prosecution department is unable to cope with all the complaints it has received about discrimination, and some 75% of reports never even reach its offices, according to research by RTL News. The department has pledged to look carefully at ‘all complaints about discrimination’ but most are set aside without being checked by department officials, the broadcaster’s researchers say. RTL found that between 2005 and 2013, police received an average of 416 complaints about discrimination a year. But only an average of 123 were actually passed on to the prosecution department. A spokeswoman for the department admitted the difficulties, saying the arrival of social media had made it easy to insult and threaten people. Choices ‘We have to make choices,’ spokeswoman Gabrielle Hoppenbrouwers told RTL. The department’s guidelines are being amended to reflect the change, Hoppenbrouwers said. The Dutch human rights commission says it considers it worrying that so many complaints go unanswered at a time when young people are becoming less likely to register such issues. ‘Youngsters tend to think… you can’t do anything about racism, particularly on social media like Facebook and Twitter,’ said Adriana van Dooijeweert. ‘That worries me.’ Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher told RTL that all cases of discrimination hurt people deeply but that not every case can be prosecuted. ‘We are doing a lot and we are going to look if there is any more we can do,’ Asscher said.  More >