Belgium plan to cut remand terms
18 November 2003, BRUSSELS – The Belgian government has unveiled plans to reduce remand prison terms and introduce plea-bargaining in order to reduce the country's overcrowded prison population.
18 November 2003
BRUSSELS – The Belgian government has unveiled plans to reduce remand prison terms and introduce plea-bargaining in order to reduce the country's overcrowded prison population.
Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx said the sweeping measures, part of the government's new "justice policy plan" would be included in a bill to be put through parliament by early next year.
Currently, one third of Belgian prison inmates are in preventive custody while awaiting trial, and their numbers have been growing over recent years. Onkelinx said the bill would define shorter limits to remand imprisonment and its abolition altogether for lesser crimes.
The minister claimed the introduction of plea bargaining, whereby more lenient sentences are delivered for a guilty plea, would immediately free up 400 prison places.
The propositions were met with approval by prison staff unions and lawyers' associations.
Belgium's Christian democrat opposition party dismissed the plan as superficial, and said a more effective measure would be to remove some 800 prisoners who it claims would be more appropriately kept in psychiatric institutions.
The Flemish extreme right Vlams Block party also criticised the plan, saying the answer to overcrowding was the building of new prisons, a measure which the government has refused.
Subject: Belgian news