The judge decides about pre-trial detention pending an appeal

The judge who sentences a person to at least one year in prison, will soon be able to order that the convicted person be taken into pre-trial detention immediately. The person in question will then be taken to prison pending the appeal. The judge can take the initiative in this respect, or can make the decision based on a request from the public prosecutor. This is evident from a bill by Minister Van der Steur of Security and Justice, which was sent for advice to several bodies today. The measure is a result of the coalition agreement.

A number of individuals who have been convicted and file for appeal only end up in prison much later to serve their sentence. In some cases they appear to be untraceable by then. This often leads to incomprehension and frustration amongst victims and (surviving) relatives. This is also bad for the confidence that is placed in the criminal justice system and the state of law. Therefore, it is so that each and every sentence handed down by the judge, should actually also be executed, and promptly.

Actual practice shows that the majority of persons who have been convicted are already in pre-trial detention (more than 80%) whilst an appeal is pending. This implies that a relatively small - yet certainly not insignificant - share of these individuals are not in custody while the appeal trial is pending. The new bill will provide the judge with more options. It will increase the likelihood that this group of individuals will also actually have to serve the sentence and that it will be served promptly.

From now on, the judge will also have to explain in his or her verdict, why the convicted person must be sent to prison immediately pending an appeal, or why not. If the Public Prosecution Service or the convicted person do not agree with the decision, they will be able to call on the court of appeals sooner. The court of appeals will assess the need for pre-trial detention and the possible suspension of such pre-trial detention.

The measure by Minister Van der Steur serves to replace the bill from 2013 - which was received with criticism - for the prompt execution of prison sentences. That bill was based more on automatism, whilst the current bill leaves the decision up to the judge.