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Unjust remand custody in Belgium on the rise

Published on 01/05/2009

The people in question were eventually acquitted of any crime, but only after they had already spent time in prison. The number of persons receiving compensation has doubled in the last six years. An innocent person who was wrongfully put in provisional custody gets damages of €70 per day.

According to an article in the daily De Standaard, people who have to sit out time in prison in provisional custody are marked for life. They will never lose the label of ‘ex-convict’. It is very doubtful that compensation of €70 per day can really bring any solace.

Almost half of the prisoners in Belgian jails are in provisional custody, writes De Standaard. What’s more every year hundreds of people who were in remand custody turn out to be innocent of the crime they were charged with. De Standaard says that it is difficult to know the exact numbers, but in any case they are rising.

In six  years the number of petitions for compensation on the basis of unjust remand custody has more than doubled. There are some 120 petitions annually, totalling damages of around € 450,000. "But for every aggrieved person that demands compensation, there are several who don’t," says lawyer Jo Stevens, chairman of the Order of the Flemish Bar. Jo Stevens is also in the commission that sets the compensation package in appeals.