Growing trend to impose life in jail
14 April 2005, AMSTERDAM — The sentencing of an Eindhoven man to life in jail for a fatal arson attack on Thursday is the latest example of the increasing readiness of courts to impose the heaviest penalty known to Dutch law.
14 April 2005
AMSTERDAM — The sentencing of an Eindhoven man to life in jail for a fatal arson attack on Thursday is the latest example of the increasing readiness of courts to impose the heaviest penalty known to Dutch law.
In terms of life sentences, 2004 was a record year in the Netherlands: courts imposed life on six occasions.
So far this year — including the Eindhoven case — courts have imposed four life sentences and it looks like last year's record will be exceeded.
Each of the life sentences this year were imposed by a trial court, leaving open the possibility an appeals court will overturn or reduce the sentences.
Life means life in the Netherlands: a defendant can only be released from a life term if granted a pardon. This has not happened in 36 years.
In Britain and Ireland, in contrast, prisoners serving life can be granted parole, depending on the circumstances, after a definite period of time — sometimes 12 or 14 years. They risk being returned to jail to serve out their sentences if they re-offend, or if the police suspect they are a risk to the public.
Dutch courts sometimes come in for criticism for not being harsh enough in serious cases, compared to courts in other countries.
Observers in the Netherlands and outside were surprised, for instance, when Volkert van de G. was jailed for 18 years and not longer for assassinating politician Pim Fortuyn in Hilversum in May 2002.
Likewise, Erwin V., 37, was jailed for 15 years for assassinating Bulgarian criminal Konstantin Dimitrov, 33. He was convicted of shooting Dimitrov in the back of the head in broad daylight on Dam Square in central Amsterdam on 6 December 2003.
A Bulgarian photo model — Tsetsi Petkova, then 23 — who was standing next to Dimitrov was seriously injured, but survived as the bullet traveled through the Dimitrov and struck her. She was disfigured for life.
However, lawyer Willem Anker, who monitors life sentences in the Netherlands, said on Thursday that the threshold for judges in imposing life sentences appears to be getting lower.
"It appears that as more life sentences are imposed, the easier it gets for judges to follow the example," he said.
Prior to the Eindhoven arson case, Arnhem Court imposed a life term on F.B., 45, on 13 March. He was convicted of killing a fellow patient at the Pompekliniek secure psychiatric clinic for offenders in Nijmegen in December 2003.
Both were serving out TBS, an indefinite term of hospitalisation sometimes imposed on offenders who have mental or personality disorders.
A court in The Hague sentenced a 42-year-old local man to life for the murder of a woman, 72, and her son, 52, who had learning difficulties. The defendant and another man were trying to rob the victims, but ended up strangling them. The prosecution had asked for the lesser sentence of 20 years in jail.
On 12 April, Almelo Court jailed German man Roedolf B. to life for shooting and killing a police officer in Enschede on 30 September 2004. A second officer was hit in the head during an ensuing gunbattle, but survived.
B. had a serious cocaine addiction and had spent almost 18 years in jail in Germany for armed robberies. He wanted to avoid being arrested and extradited at any cost to Germany where he was wanted for questioning in relation to two more armed robberies.
In the latest case, Eindhoven man R. M., 37, was jailed for life on Thursday for offering an alcoholic EUR 50 to burn down a neighbour's house, "preferably resulting in deaths".
Two Turkish boys, aged eight and 14, died in the fire and their parents were seriously injured.
Lawyer Anker maintains a database of life sentences in the Netherlands dating back to 1954. At the end of December 2004, there were 24 men and one woman serving life terms in the Netherlands.
Eight of the sentences are not yet irrevocable as the appeals process in these cases has not been exhausted. The last Dutch 'lifer' to receive a pardon was freed in 1969.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news