Criminals go free after judicial bungling
Special procedures should be followed to ensure that all the rules are observed during an investigation.
The Belgian judicial authorities are set to have to let around a dozen convicted criminals go free after a spate of procedural mistakes. The suspects had all been detained following an investigation that employed special detection methods including telephone tapping and the shadowing of suspects.
When suspects are detained as part of an investigation that makes use of special detection methods, a secret dossier is opened.
Special procedures also need to be followed to ensure that all the rules were observed during the investigation.
As a result of various interpretations of the law, different procedures were used in Ghent (East Flanders) than elsewhere in the country.
Belgium's Supreme Court, the Court of Cassation, earlier ruled that the rights of the defence had been violated in Ghent and as a result the legal procedure was not valid in law.
Several defendants who had been convicted in Ghent then took their case to the appeal court.
Appeal court judges have now ruled that defendants in two cases will go free.
The public prosecutor's office can still appeal to the Supreme Court against these rulings.
"May bring forward new legislation"
The new Belgian Justice Minister Stefaan Declerck (Flemish Christian democrat) has acknowledged that ten convicted criminals will have to be freed because the Supreme Court has ruled that procedural errors occurred.
Declerck is eager to see an end to the confusion that allowed this to happen and may bring forward new legislation.
The gangsters' victims are disappointed that these criminals have been freed. Lawyer Paul Quirynen told VRT's Philip Heymans "This has got nothing to do with justice or social responsibility. It's just procedure."