Dutch Senate assents to Forensic Care Act

The Dutch Senate today accepted the Forensic Care Act tabled by Sander Dekker, the Minister for Legal Protection. The act makes it easier for criminal court judges to impose compulsory care orders on prisoners with mental disorders, both during and after their prison sentences. The act also grants judges greater scope to issue detention under a hospital order.

Minister Dekker: ‘With the right combination of punishment and treatment, we will reduce the likelihood of recidivism among perpetrators. We cannot guarantee 100% safety, but this act puts more tools in the hands of courts to intervene when people deserve punishment, but also when they need care.’
 
It is important that forensic care is well aligned with regular care, as offered by mental healthcare institutions. This will prevent situations, for example, where prisoners suddenly find themselves out of prison but without the right care and consequently being at a high risk of reoffending. The new law means criminal court judges can impose compulsory care to directly follow a sentence, thereby ensuring that care provision does not stop automatically when the sentence ends.
 
The new law also gives courts more possibilities to issue detention under hospital orders. Each year dozens of suspects avoid hospital orders with compulsory treatment because they refuse to cooperate with psychological examinations. The result is that these individuals will not have received adequate treatment when they return to society, which increases the likelihood that they will go on to cause harm to others yet again. Using existing health data from regular care institutions, observers can nevertheless make judgements about the mental condition of suspects who refuse to cooperate with psychological examinations. This means judges will be able to issue detention under hospital orders more often in those cases where it is necessary. The law takes effect on 1 January 2019.

Ministry responsible