Life in jail not always life, say lawyers

Some 40 prominent legal experts, including the high court’s advocate general Geert Knigge, have begun a campaign for changes in the way life prison terms are interpreted, Trouw reports on Wednesday.

The group says that people sentenced to life in jail should have their cases reviewed periodically to see if they are entitled to release or having their sentences cut.
‘If you lock someone up and throw away the key, you might as well reintroduce the death penalty,’ Groningen lawyer Wiene van Hattum told Trouw.
Van Hattum said 15 years after sentencing would be an appropriate moment for reassessment. While some people should never be released, everyone should have the chance, he told Trouw.
For example, Mohammed Bouyeri, jailed for life for the murder of film maker Theo van Gogh, should be considered for release at some point, Van Hattum said. ‘He is young… he may too change his views. I do not believe you can write people off.’
In total 25 people have been sentenced to life imprisonment since 2000, compared with just 15 in the 50 previous years. The term ‘life’ was introduced in 1870 after the death penalty was abolished. The last time someone serving life was pardoned and released was in 1986, the paper says.

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