'Suspect can no longer avoid facing victim in court': justice ministry

Family raise questions after teenage model dies in fall from balcony

People accused of serious violent and sexual crimes will have no choice but to appear in court if victims want to exercise their right to speak, the justice ministry announced on Thursday. Up to now, suspects have had the option whether or not to appear in court during their trial. ‘It is of the utmost importance that victims are given not only given the opportunity to speak but that they are heard. Suspects have to be confronted with the misery they have caused to victims,’ justice minister Sander Dekker said. The right of victims to speak in court has been part of Dutch trials since 2005. According to the Volkskrant it has the support of most political parties but is controversial among lawyers. Prominent lawyers Bart Nooitgedagt and Peter Plasman told the paper they object to what they consider ‘the rise of emotion’ in court: formally a ‘perpetrator’ is only a suspect at that stage and ‘emotions can jeopardise the neutrality of the trial process’. But the minister, in an interview with the Volkskrant, said the rights of the victims had been ignored for too long. ‘For a long time now we have not been paying enough attention to victims. A trial was something between the government and perpetrators and was rooted in the idea that if the perpetrator was punished by law, that would help the victim. But it’s not enough,’ he told the paper The minister also wants to to improve support for victims of crime and boost the options for financial compensation. In particular, their names and addresses will no longer be included in the trial documents. ‘Victims have not chosen to become victims. And if they suffer financial damage as a consequence they must be compensated as quickly as possible,’ he said.  More >

Four in 5 cases not investigated: police

Family raise questions after teenage model dies in fall from balcony The Dutch police union NPB made an appeal to parliament for increased funding on Tuesday, saying criminals are going unpunished because of the shortage of detectives. In total, the police need 2,000 more detectives to make sure all cases can be followed up, the union says in a new report, which is in the hands of broadcaster NOS. The report, based on interviews with 400 detectives, says the force is grappling with too many problems and nothing has been done to improve the detection service since the alarm was last sounded two years ago. Detectives estimate just one in five cases - usually involving murder, armed robbery and violent crime - is picked up. Just one in three requests for observation teams or digital experts is honoured, leading to cases being abandoned or taking unnecessarily long to be completed, NOS quotes the report as saying. This means other forms of crime, such as fraud, drugs and sex crimes don't get the attention they should, the union says.  At the same time, hardened criminals are profiling themselves as business men, with investments in property and the hospitality industry. 'Over the past 25 years, I have seen small time dealers turn into major entrepreneurs with good contacts among politicians and into so-called respectable investors,' one detective, named in the report as Bert, said.  More >

Five years for mole who sold police files

Family raise questions after teenage model dies in fall from balcony A police officer has been given a five-year jail sentence for leaking confidential information to contacts in the criminal underworld. Mark M. earned at least €80,000 from 'subscriptions' paid by criminal suspects to gain access to police files. The district court in Den Bosch said he had 'damaged the image of the police force' and 'seriously frustrated' his colleagues' investigations. M., who was not in court for the verdict, denied all the charges against him and claimed he had looked up information as a 'hobby'. The court cleared him of a charge of bribery. Former police chief Gerard Bouman earlier described M. as ‘the worst rotten apple in years.’ It emerged that M. was one of more than 100 police staff who were given access to confidential files despite failing screening checks. M. joined the police as a trainee in 2009 and initially worked for CID before transferring to the traffic division. But he retained his login details for the BlueView information system and harvested information from criminal files for four years until he was arrested in September 2015. The 31-year-old is currently living in Ukraine, his girlfriend's native country, where he started up a telecoms and security business. He is contesting his dismissal from the police force. M. claimed that the money he received came in the form of loans, while €4,000 that was found in his flat in Weert was linked to a business venture in Ukraine, where transactions are routinely made in cash.  More >

Grenades found, family told to leave home

Family raise questions after teenage model dies in fall from balcony A family from Nieuwegein near Utrecht have been ordered by the local mayor to leave their home for three months because of the risk they pose to public safety. Two grenades were found in front of the terraced house where the family lives on Thursday and last week their home was shot at, prompting the mayor to take action. 'Sealing this house is necessary to ensure the safety of the neighbourhood and prevent new occurrences,' mayor Frans Backhuijs is quoted as saying by the Volkskrant. He said the family understood the decision and will sort out a new place to live themselves. The council is not funding their temporary accommodation. Explosives experts spend much of Thursday clearing the grenades and making sure the street is safe. The local school was also closed and the children were evacuated. 'There is obviously talk of a conflict,' a police spokesman told reporters on Thursday. 'But we don't know what it is about and we plan to talk more to the man of the house who seems to be the target.' The family, made up of two parents and two adult children, have lived in the area for several years.  More >

Boy, 14, in court for killing his parents

Family raise questions after teenage model dies in fall from balcony A 14-year-old boy who has admitted stabbing his parents to death at the family farmhouse in last year, should be given the maximum sentence under juvenile law, the public prosecutor has told a closed court session. This means the boy would spend a year in a juvenile prison, followed by treatment in a psychiatric prison. No more details about the case have been made public and it is unclear what motivated the boy to attack his mother and father at their home. The bodies of the 63-year-old man and 62-year-old woman were found by neighbours who share the property and the boy, the youngest of three sons, was arrested shortly afterwards. Katlijk, close to Heerenveen, is a small village of just 600 people and the double murder has shocked locals. The family were not known to be a problem and were not involved with social services, the town’s mayor told the Leeuwarder Courant. The court will rule on the case in two weeks time. That session will be open to the public and the press.  More >