Albert: merciful or mediaeval monarch?

13th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Belgium's King Albert has granted a thousand pardons in the past four years.

Each year around 250 people benefit from the Belgian monarch's mercy.

The requests for a pardon involve custodial sentences, but also fines and driving bans.

The figures come from Belgian Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck (Flemish Christian Democrat).

De Clerck was fielding questions from the Flemish nationalist lawmaker Els De Rammelare.

In practice, it is the Mercy Department of the Justice Department that takes the decisions.

King Albert takes account of the social, professional and family situation of those who request mercy.

New elements can improve the chances of a favourable decision.

Prisoners who were sentenced in their absence or who follow training courses in prison are more likely to receive a favourable answer from the Palace.

A medieval practice?

In all King Albert received 6,241 requests for a pardon. In 1,094 cases the king agreed to the request.

Under the Belgian Constitution the monarch has the right to annul or reduce sentences imposed by magistrates.

Justice Minister De Clerck says the practice forms part of a coherent sentencing policy, but the opposition nationalists speak of a medieval practice that should be ended.

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