Men who have paid sex with minors often receive milder sentences than those requested by the public prosecution office, the centre for people trafficking CKM has found.
The centre looked at 100 files dating from between 2015 and 2019, 40 of which concerned paid sex with minors, which carries a custodial sentence. In 60% of these cases, the perpetrators were given a one-day sentence combined with community service.
In almost all of these cases, the public prosecution office had recommended a prison sentence of more than a month.
“There is a big difference between our point of view and that of the courts,” prosecutor Warner ten Kate told broadcaster NOS. “Since 2015 we have been focusing more on these cases, but the judiciary does not always follow our lead,” he said.
Ten Kate cites the case of a 16-year-old girl who was forced to have sex with dozens of men in a hotel in Valkenburg. The men involved were sentenced to one day and community service. The public prosecutor took the case to the supreme court but the sentence remained the same.
Judge Jacco Janssen, spokesman for the judicial council Raad voor de Rechtspraak said what matters most in these cases is whether or not the perpetrator knew how old the girl was. “If they knew they were having sex with a minor, they will get a higher custodial sentence but if it is likely they don’t, the punishment will be milder.”
“Community service sentences act as a deterrent. Prison sentences increase the likelihood of it happening again,” Janssen said.
The CKM has a fundamentally different view, spokeswoman Chamir Ceuleers told the broadcaster. “The judge should see punters in a different light. In international law, they are seen as one of the main drivers of human trafficking. But in the Netherlands, the judges seem to regard them as innocent bystanders who have to be punished because the law demands it.”
The CKM is urging more research into the type of person who seeks sex with minors. Their own investigation showed all perpetrators were men, with an average age of 37. Most were married with children and a third had a criminal record.
The minors involved were all girls, including one 13-year-old. The investigation found that in 80% of cases, the men find the girls via websites. Nothing is done to stop these sites from making money out of the abuse and exploitation of children and therefore shining a light on the perpetrators may be more effective, Ceuleers said.