Dutch MPs back 30-year jail term
23 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — A majority in the Dutch Parliament favours giving judges the power to impose a 30-year term of imprisonment in serious criminal cases. Under the current law, the highest sentences a court can impose are 20 years or life imprisonment.
The four largest parties in Parliament, or Tweede Kamer, in The Hague signalled their support during a debate on Thursday with Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner, who plans to introduce an amendment to fill the gap between the two highest sentences.
Dutch courts impose 20-year terms only a few times a year and life sentences are usually only applied in cases involving multiple premeditated homicide.
Defendants sentenced to 20 years in jail serve on average 12 years before being paroled. In effect, a 30-year sentence would keep the defendant behind bars for 20 years.
Life means life as prisoners serving life terms in the Netherlands do not get parole.
Newspaper De Telegraaf reported last year that various criminal law experts claimed the Netherlands has one of the strongest life sentence regulations in the world. But that they also recognised that the life sentence ruling is still a grey area, due partly to the fact the sentence was rarely imposed in the 1970s and 80s.
Donner formulated his proposals after the outcry about the sentencing of Volkert van der Graaf who murdered populist politician Pim Fortuyn in May 2002.
Animal rights activist Van der Graaf was sentenced to 18 years in jail. With parole, he could be released after serving 12 years.
Fortuyn’s LPF party led a chorus of disapproval for the sentence, saying it was too short.
Donner’s amendment received support from his own Christian Democrat CDA party and from the Liberal VVD, populist LPF and Labour PvdA, news agency Novum reported.
LPF MPs expressed the hope that the tougher measures would help bring about a change in the criminal climate in the Netherlands.
The justice spokesman for the LPF, Joost Eerdmans, said a “criminal virus was troubling the Netherlands” and that 60 percent of all crimes were committed by habitual offenders.
The LPF also wants to see a tougher approach to convicted terrorists and soccer hooligans. “How can you impose tougher sentences if you don’t increase sentencing tariffs,” asked LPF leader Mat Herben.
The Liberals also came out in favour of Donner’s proposal, saying that the sentencing system was obsolete.
“We would put two arguments forward to support this contention. In the first place, people live longer these days and in the second place offenders are committing crimes at an earlier age,” VVD spokeswoman Laetitia Griffith said.
Labour MP Aleid Wolfsen said his party wanted to give judges the ability to impose “smart punishments” in place of the current situation where there was no option between 20 years and life.
“By introducing a 30-year term, judges will have to impose life sentences less frequently.
MPs also backed a call by the CDA’s Sybrand van Haersma Buma that the maximum terms for several other offences be increased.
Van Haersma Buma said the maximum sentence for culpable manslaughter should be increased from nine months to two years, and to four years in cases were recklessness leads to a fatality.
It is also suggested that the maximum sentence for assault rise from two to three years.
And to tackle the increasing recklessness of human smugglers, it is proposed that the maximum term in cases where the life of the person/s being smuggled is/are put in danger should be increased from four to eight years.
Separately, it was reported on Thursday that a 23-year-old man convicted of the attempted murder of a train conductor was sentenced to 30-months imprisonment by a court in Alkmaar. The final six months of the sentence was suspended.
The prosecution had asked that he be jailed for the full 30 months for the attack on 7 September 2003.
The conductor had approached the man on a train to tell him to take his feet off the seat and to stop smoking his joint. A short time later, the defendant hit her with a paving stone and robbed her of her purse. The conductor was taken to hospital with a serious head wound, but survived.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news + crime