Justice ministry needs to be less repressive, say Labour MPs

The justice ministry needs to change its over-emphasis on repression and ministers should moderate their tone when speaking about legal issues, the Labour party’s parliamentary spokesman on legal issues say in Tuesday’s Volkskrant.

Labour and the VVD form the current coalition government and both justice ministers – Ivo Opstelten and Fred Teeven – are VVD members.
In the newspaper article, Ahmed Marcouch and Jeroen Recourt argue for mediation between victims and perpetrators. ‘We need to be less ideological and look more at what keeps people off the criminal path,’ Recourt says.
MPs will debate the justice ministry budget and strategy for 2013 later this week.
According to the Volkskrant, little has changed in the official line on crime and crime prevention since the previous government, when the VVD worked with the Christian Democrats and anti-immigration PVV.
Mediation is an important part of the wind of change that needs to blow through the ministry, Recourt is quoted as saying. ‘Victim and criminal often know each other. They come from the same family or neighbourhood and they will have to deal with each other again in the future. That is why we back mediation,’ he said.

Minimum sentences

The Volkskrant states one sign of the new approach is that proposals to impose minimum sentences for serious crimes will be dropped. ‘Minimum sentences represent a vote of no confidence in the judiciary,’ Recourt said.
The PvdA also wants to strengthen confidence in judges by allowing lay people to have a role in cases where judges are challenged by defence lawyers, to ensure their neutrality.
Opstelten and Teeven said in a statement ‘repression and prevention go hand-in-hand’. ‘We have put the victim central [in the legal system] because it used to focus on the perpetrator.’
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