'Suspect can no longer avoid facing victim in court': justice ministry

Boy, 14, faces year in jail plus psychiatric prison for killing his parents

People accused of serious violent and sexual crimes will have no choice but to appear in court if victims want to exercise their right to speak, the justice ministry announced on Thursday. Up to now, suspects have had the option whether or not to appear in court during their trial. ‘It is of the utmost importance that victims are given not only given the opportunity to speak but that they are heard. Suspects have to be confronted with the misery they have caused to victims,’ justice minister Sander Dekker said. The right of victims to speak in court has been part of Dutch trials since 2005. According to the Volkskrant it has the support of most political parties but is controversial among lawyers. Prominent lawyers Bart Nooitgedagt and Peter Plasman told the paper they object to what they consider ‘the rise of emotion’ in court: formally a ‘perpetrator’ is only a suspect at that stage and ‘emotions can jeopardise the neutrality of the trial process’. But the minister, in an interview with the Volkskrant, said the rights of the victims had been ignored for too long. ‘For a long time now we have not been paying enough attention to victims. A trial was something between the government and perpetrators and was rooted in the idea that if the perpetrator was punished by law, that would help the victim. But it’s not enough,’ he told the paper The minister also wants to to improve support for victims of crime and boost the options for financial compensation. In particular, their names and addresses will no longer be included in the trial documents. ‘Victims have not chosen to become victims. And if they suffer financial damage as a consequence they must be compensated as quickly as possible,’ he said.  More >

Locals see red due to bat-friendly lights

Barneveld residents see red over new bat-friendly street lighting People living in a new residential area in Barneveld, a staunchly Bible belt town of 65,000 in the centre of the Netherlands, are up in arms about new bat-friendly street lighting, which has turned their neighbourhood into what they feel is a red light district. Since last week, the Nesciostraat has had red street lighting, because bats are apparently less sensitive to that than traditional street lamps. 'It's awful,' resident Diana van den Heuvel told broadcaster NOS. 'You can do this in Amsterdam but not in Barneveld,' said another. The council says that the neighbourhood is on a popular bat route and that by law it has to take steps to protect the animals. 'As a local authority, we have to comply with the rules,' a spokesman told local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland. Last year, researchers at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology said that bats eyes are too sensitive to blue and ultraviolet light, but have less problem with orange and red lights. Their report concluded that: 'in order to limit the negative impact of light at night on bats, white and green light should be avoided in or close to natural habitats, but red lights may be used if illumination is needed.' The council says it is now in talks with nature organisations to see if there is an alternative. Deze straat in Barneveld wordt sinds kort rood verlicht, omdat vleermuizen daar beter tegen kunnen. Maar de bewoners hebben nu het idee dat ze in een rosse buurt wonen. → https://t.co/fgHJvlcmYX pic.twitter.com/IMz3ZqGghp — NOS (@NOS) February 21, 2018   More >

Wolf spotted walking around Gelderland

Boy, 14, faces year in jail plus psychiatric prison for killing his parents There have been three confirmed sightings of wolves in the Netherlands so far this year, website Nature Today said on Wednesday. On Wednesday morning, a wolf was spotted in several locations in Gelderland and was caught on video walking along the edge of fields. A wolf was seen in several places in the east of the country around the beginning of January and again in Twente in early February. ‘In general wolves are wary animals so it is likely that the Netherlands is visited more often,’ the website said. ‘However, there is no sign yet that wolves have made the Netherlands their permanent home.’ The first confirmed sighting of a live wolf on Dutch soil since 1869 was made in 2015. A dead wolf was found in Flevoland in summer 2013 but research showed it had probably been dumped there. In March 2014, the government announced the wolf will be a protected species when it returns to live in the Netherlands. This means farmers will receive compensation from a special fund if livestock are attacked and killed.   More >

Stadionplein becomes Johan Cruijffplein

Boy, 14, faces year in jail plus psychiatric prison for killing his parents Amsterdam's Stadionplein is to be renamed after footballer Johan Cruijff, the city council announced on Wednesday. The Olympic stadium on the Stadionplein was the scene of some of Cruijff’s triumphs with football club Ajax in the early 1970s - in particular, victory in the Intercontinental Cup in 1972. 'Johan had a lot of connections to [the Stadionplein] and often came there,' the city said in a statement. 'He was there for matches but also for his own institute and foundation which had their offices there. And the Cruijff family lived nearby.' It is, the council said, 'a suitable place to honour this extraordinary Amsterdammer.' The Amsterdam Arena stadium will also carry Cruijff's name but the change has not been approved officially. Johan Cruijff died on March 24 2016, at the age of 68.  More >

New dads to get one week paid leave

Boy, 14, faces year in jail plus psychiatric prison for killing his parents From next year, new fathers in the Netherlands will be eligible for a week’s paid leave during the first four weeks of the baby’s arrival, social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees confirmed on Wednesday. At the moment new fathers in the Netherlands only have two day’s paid leave, which is one of the smallest amounts in the EU. In addition to five day's paid leave, new dads will also have the right to take off five weeks in the first six months after the birth of the baby from 2020. They will then be paid 70% of their wages. ‘When you have a baby everything changes,’ Koolmees said, announcing the new measure at a mother and baby trade fair in the RAI exhibition centre. ‘You find yourself in the middle of the rush hour of life. Then some extra time together is very useful to get used to living with a new baby. This will give mother, partner and baby a better start.’ In addition, ‘tasks in and around the house and work will be divided more equally and that will be beneficial in the long run,’ Koolmees said. The new rules also apply to partners in same sex couples.  More >