6 January 2003
AMSTERDAM — The Public Prosecution Office (OM) rejected on Tuesday a controversial call to place the photos of repeat criminals on the internet or in local newspapers in what opposition MPs fear could become a form of public shaming.
The OM said repeat offenders should be tackled by the police and prosecution officials, not the public. It also said the publication of photos posed a risk of vigilante-style actions and violated privacy laws.
But the prosecution office said it backed suggestions that information should be supplied to organisations directly affected by repeat offenders. This included Dutch football association KNVB, which could be given the personal details of football hooligans.
Utrecht police chief Peter Vogelzang said on Monday that repeat offenders should have their anonymity removed. He said the public could be better supported by supplying them more current and a greater amount of information about criminality and criminals.
Utrecht, like most Dutch police corps, presented good figures for 2003 — with the number of crime reports declining by 11.5 percent and a 12.9 percent rise in the number of suspects handed over to prosecution officials — but Vogelzang said to continue that trend every method available must be used to reduce crime.
This included informing people about criminal methods by community briefings and informing the public whether a repeat criminal is active in their region by placing their photo on the internet or in neighbourhood newspapers.
But reactions to his suggestions have been mixed, with Amsterdam police coming out in favour of removing the anonymity of repeat offenders as much as possible, news agency ANP reported.
The capital’s police force took a similar stance last month when it placed the photos of hooligans on the internet. It hoped that the photos would identify hooligans to the public and assist in tracking them down more quickly.
Utrecht Mayor Annie Brouwer said it was a good idea to place the privacy of repeat offenders up for discussion. “If you want a durable decline in criminality and make an appeal on the public and the business, you must give them a handle on what to do,” she said.
But political parties Labour PvdA, Christian Democrat CDA and GroenLinks were critical of the proposal, with main opposition party PvdA saying that it should not descend into a Middle Ages public shaming punishment.
Coalition government Christian Democrat CDA spokesman Sybrand van Haersma Buma also said that someone with a criminal past should not be subject to pubic shaming. But if it involves a suspect on the run, he was not opposed to the proposal.
In general, the full names of offenders are not printed in the media even after the person has been convicted of a serious crime such as murder or rape. Instead the person’s initials are used and black bands often cover the person’s eyes in photographs to prevent identification.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news