The first weeks of the new year are over and there is finally a new cabinet. A cabinet with ‘ordinary’ people in the ministerial posts of Justice and Security. So no lawyers: a huge mistake according to many. A harsh judgment that I fully shared until last week. That changed when I sat at my mother’s deathbed in the early days of this year.
In the final phase, the care for my mother mainly consisted of the roll-out of protocols. When I thought of the piled up packages of diapers in the hall, I mainly thought of staff shortages in the care home – was there a connection? I did not expect much from the care that my mother would receive in her last days, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The neurology department of the Franciscus Gasthuis & Vlietland in Rotterdam provided care with a human dimension with a capital M. The employees showed each other what the human dimension of people is. The young doctor who sketched the hopeless perspective and did so with an emotion that cannot be hidden. The nurses who stroked my deeply sleeping mother’s arm or face every time they nursed her. And the meal service employees who always made time for a chat, who did not shy away from the circumstances, but who named them fearlessly and sincerely. “They always squeak out if you don’t look
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If security comes first, there is a risk that the rule of law will be broken down in the interest of the rule of law. What may come of this is evident in a number of Eastern European countries, where the rule of law is faltering. Under the rule of law, subversive crime is a major problem that deserves separate attention. Make sure that the response to the undermining of our society does not become the undermining of our rule of law.
Crime in the Netherlands is much broader than this form of crime. Therefore, do not throw the baby out with the bathwater, but keep a close eye on the principles of our rule of law. Make sure that if the police and the public prosecutor are given more powers, the rights of suspects are not left behind.
Professionals work in the police, the public prosecutor’s office, the judiciary and the legal profession. These are people with experience, understanding and passion for their profession. Trust them! To start with the criminal court; it’s about punishment and he’s very good at it. The Dutch criminal court is far from mild. Therefore, forget any (cautious) thought of minimum sentences and any (further) infringement of the criminal judge’s freedom of sentencing. Abolish the community service order with immediate effect. Give us the freedom to do our job.
Lawyers can also be trusted. Don’t erode the rights they have in the interest of their clients. Involve them more in making policies that affect them. They are less divided than is thought. Make legal aid funding the success everyone hopes for. Also keep an eye out for the prosecutors and the police. They do not complain easily but warn that it is growing over their heads on all sides.
Also read: Trust that lawyers serve the law independently
Come up with alternatives to the (short) prison sentence and pre-trial detention. Enter the ankle bracelet as a punishment modality. Call the director of the Dutch Probation Service today; he wore one for Christmas and can tell you all about it.
See whether the arrangement for conditional release can be different. The time for rehabilitation after a (long) prison sentence is now too short to successfully return to society. Committing criminal offenses again is then lurking. Provide a plan to better shape civil compensation claims in criminal proceedings. Give the suspect and the victim a good position in this.
In Rotterdam we use the slogan ‘deeds not words’. Therefore Excellencies, Dilan and Franc, you are most welcome at the court of Rotterdam. On January 25, two colleagues and I start a mega business. The suspicion concerns organized subversive crime in an international context. Eight hearing days with eight suspects, eight lawyers and two public prosecutors. The practice of criminal justice in pictures, I can’t think of a better start to your term of office. We start at 9:00 am. Let us know if you are coming due to the corona measures. Until then!
The Toga column is written by a lawyer, judge or officer.