More plea bargains agreed in bid to ease strain on courts
Prosecutors are increasingly cutting plea bargains with suspects in an effort to prevent the justice system from becoming clogged with complicated, long-running cases.
Since December 2021 a total of 76 deals have been agreed outside the courtroom, including 20 in the last two months, AD reported.
It follows a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court in September that year which cleared the way for prosecutors to offer shorter sentences if defence lawyers agree to save time and costs through measures such as waiving the right to appeal.
The terms of the deal must be put before the trial judge, who has the final say on whether to approve or reject them.
In the first deal, an Albanian lorry driver who transported drugs through Rotterdam was given a four-year jail sentence after his lawyer agreed not to appeal the sentence and drop several requests for evidence, reducing investigators’ workload. The prosecution had originally planned to ask for a five-year sentence.
Plea bargains are commonly sought in drug cases, which can become extremely complex and drag on for years. Last month an alleged accomplice of Ridouan Taghi, who is standing trial for commissioning a string of gangland murders, was given nine years in jail after agreeing a deal with prosecutors.
Supporters of the move say it has become necessary to stop the justice system becoming overburdened.
‘The courts, the prosecution service, the legal profession – everybody realised something had to happpen,’ Laura Peters, expert in comparative criminal law at Groningen university, told AD.
Rotterdam judge Jacco Janssen said agreeing deals was an important way of speeding up the system. ‘The biggest benefit is that cases are dealt with straight away and there is no appeal. So you don’t have a court spending 24 days considering a case and then having to go through the whole charade again at the appeal court three years later.
Janssen said the deals were transparent and judges did not hesitate to reject them if they were unsatisfied with the terms.
‘We still look at the evidence, the agreements and what is an appropriate sentence,’ he said. ‘And importantly, we also check if the suspect understands the deal.
‘But these agreements are only really suitable for high-volume cases. You can’t negotiate a sentence in a murder case.’
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