Social worker tried for failing client
1 November 2007, AMSTERDAM - A Dutch public prosecutor requested a court in The Hague on Thursday to impose a sentence of community service on a social worker who is charged with failing to protect her client, a toddler who died from abuse and neglect.
1 November 2007
AMSTERDAM - A Dutch public prosecutor requested a court in The Hague on Thursday to impose a sentence of community service on a social worker who is charged with failing to protect her client, a toddler who died from abuse and neglect.
The woman, a family guardian, is standing trial on suspicion of failing to provide a safe haven to a client. In 2004 three-year-old Savannah died following prolonged abuse and neglect by her mother and two of her former partners.
The family guardian, her supervisors and a number of social aid organisations had been aware of the girl's situation. Nevertheless the girl was not removed from her parental home by the local Youth Care Bureau.
Prior to the trial, the public prosecutor had charged the family guardian with second degree manslaughter. However, on Thursday public prosecutor Nicole Vogelenzang said those charges were off the table.
No causal relationship could be established between the family guardian's failure to remove the child from her parental home and the girl's subsequent death.
Vogelenzang, however, added that the family guardian had focused primarily upon the mother's perspective. "Savannah's interests subsequently moved to the background," she told the court Thursday.
The new charge is complicity in inflicting serious physical harm. The prosecution has requested the court to impose a conditional sentence of 150 hours of community service.
The family guardian's lawyer Simeon Burmeister welcomed the reduction in the charges against his client, but also told reporters: "We want more. The prosecutor uses civil jurisprudence to argue its case. But these arguments deal with money, not with intentions."
"Our client never intended for anything bad to happen to Savannah," Burmeister said.
In 2006, a court in The Hague tried and convicted the toddler's mother Sonja de Jong, her former boyfriend Mario Bijleveer, as well as another former boyfriend Reffles Mulders for their involvement in Savannah's death.
The mother and Bijleveer received sentences of six years and two years imprisonment respectively and were also placed in mental health custody. A psychiatric evaluation showed that the second boyfriend could only be held accountable to a limited extent.
The family guardian is the first social worker to be prosecuted in the Netherlands in a criminal suit for failing to protect a client.
On Monday the social worker's lawyers told reporters it was "unfair" that the family guardian and not her superiors - the management of the Youth Care Bureau in North Holland - was standing trial.
The trial was set to continue through Friday.
[Copyright dpa 2007]
Subject: Dutch news