Tuesday 02 June 2020

Criminal cases are piling up as lawyers call for courts to be reopened

Lawyers are calling for an immediate end to the closure of all court rooms because the number of cases put on hold indefinitely is reaching unacceptable levels.

The plea to open up the courts comes after an earlier call by Dutch criminal lawyers association NVSA to close all courts except for urgent cases. All courts were effectively closed from mid-March to stop the spread of coronavirus, apart for cases bound by legal deadlines.

However, the number of criminal cases is now running into thousands and both victim support organsations and lawyers say the delay is detrimental to the mental health of both victims and suspects.

‘Court rooms and buildings are often very big. We think that it is possible to allow cases to go forward without breaking the social distancing rules,’ NVSA chairman Jeroen Soeteman told public broadcaster NOS. ‘We understand the situation is difficult but if experts agree with us we should go ahead. The criminal law system is practically collapsing’.

Lawyers organisation Orde van Advocaten supports the call and said the term ‘urgent’ is applied ‘rather rigidly’ and more cases should be heard.

Minister of legal protection Sander Dekker has said in a reaction that he understands the frustration and that the justice department and the public prosecution office are discussing what can be done to process more cases.

‘We will have more clarity on this at the weekend but it will still be a puzzle,’ he told NOS.

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