Minister rules out allowing lay judges

Justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin has ruled out the introduction of lay judges in the judiciary system, saying this would be too much of a break with the Dutch legal tradition.

In a letter to MPs on Wednesday, Hirsch Ballin said involving citizens in court decisions is unnecessary and would mean fundamental changes to the legal system with significant financial and organisational consequences.
The minister’s decision is in line with recommendations by criminal law professor Theo de Roos who was asked by the government to look into the possibility of lay judges.
De Roos concluded that while there were no objections in principle, the implementation would require far-reaching changes to the legal system.
The minister also pointed out that a recent survey concluded that 61% of the population consider Dutch judges reliable and that this percentage is not higher in countries where lay judges operate.
The call for public participation in trials, for example through juries, came from the Labour, VVD and List Pim Fortuyn parties last year. They believe this would reinvigorate the justice system and encourage more accountability when it came to verdicts.
According to the Volkskrant, the Netherlands is the only European country in which lay judges have no role in the legal system.

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