Expatica news

Dutch MPs stand firm on 30-year jail terms

2 June 2004

AMSTERDAM — A majority of MPs have confirmed their calls for serious crimes to carry a maximum 30-year jail term to close the current gap between life sentences and the present 20-year terms Dutch courts can impose.

The Christian Democrat CDA, Labour PvdA and populist LPF on Tuesday rejected the alternative proposal from Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner to amend the Dutch sentencing system by changing the early release scheme.

During discussions in the Lower House of Parliament, Tweede Kamer, the three parties remained firm on their proposal to raise the maximum sentence – other than life – for crimes of murder and other serious crimes by 10 years, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

The proposal was first lodged in February in response to discussions around the sentencing of Volkert van der Graaf, who shot and killed politician Pim Fortuyn in May 2002. He was sentenced on appeal to 18 years in jail by Amsterdam Court in July 2003.

If someone is sentenced to 20 years in jail, they can be paroled after 13.5 years due to the early release law that automatically allows criminals to apply for release after serving two thirds of their sentence.

Life sentences cannot be shortened and remain in force until a detainee dies. If a murderer is sentenced at a young age to life in prison, he or she could spend 40 years or more behind bars.

The CDA, PvdA and LPF proposal means that the sentencing gap will be reduced by a maximum of 6.5 years. If someone is sentenced to 30 years, they will be eligible for release after 20 years.

It is thus also possible that some life sentences might not be imposed. Judges will not have to impose life sentences if they think that 20 years is not enough because they can impose 30-year sentences.

But Minister Donner is opposed to the tougher sentence, claiming that it erodes the Dutch sentencing system, and would require that all sentences be toughened.

He has proposed instead allowing judges to impose 20-year jail terms that actually require detainees to spend 20 years in jail.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news