A committee of judges has slated the way the Dutch legal system treated parents who were accused of childcare benefit fraud in a report out on Friday.
The probe comes in the wake of the childcare benefit scandal which saw thousands of families wrongly accused of defrauding the tax office and ordered to pay back benefits, causing many acute financial problems.
The report, called ‘Finding justice in court’, reviews almost all 17,000 benefit fraud cases which came before a judge between 2010 and 2019. Most judges followed the tax office’s ‘all or nothing’ line on the cases, even when they felt the sentence to be unduly harsh, the authors said.
This interpretation of the rules means parents must pay back the whole amount received in child benefits even if they owe only a small amount. In one example cited in the report, a parent who had failed to pay an outstanding amount of €77.32 was ordered to pay back the entire advance of €27,544.
The committee said judges need to focus more on the legal protection of individuals by ‘actively investigating’ the relevant facts in every case and taking into account the personal circumstances of the person involved. ‘Show empathy’, the report concludes.
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