New step to expand victims' rights
Persons in pre-trial detention on suspicion of having committed serious sex crimes or violent crimes will be forced to attend their court hearing and the pronouncement of the court's decision in person as part of a legislative proposal to expand victims' rights by Minister Dekker (Legal Protection), which has been submitted for consultation. This represents the next step towards improving the victims' position during criminal proceedings.
'It is important that the suspect is physically present to hear the representations of the Public Prosecution Service, the victim and the court. The suspect's presence may help the victim feel that they are being taken seriously.'
The legislative proposal is an elaboration of the coalition agreement and the multi-year victim policy agenda (Meerjarenagenda slachtofferbeleid 2018-2021) launched by the Minister earlier this year.
Another part of the proposal concerns granting the right to be heard to the stepfamilies of deceased victims. This is currently not provided for by law. Minister Dekker considers it important to do justice to the fact that increasing numbers of children grow up in blended families. Some children are raised from an early age by carers who are not blood relatives, but still have a close bond with the child, raise it and care for it. This includes not only step-parents, but also step-siblings.
In practice, different courts have different approaches to the timing of the victim's or surviving relatives' right to be heard. Making a statement can be stressful. 'It should therefore be clear in advance of the hearing when they will be heard,' the minister says. He proposes to let the victim or surviving relatives speak before the public prosecutor states their demand, so that the latter can take this into account.
The proposal also introduces a limited right to be heard during hearings to extend a hospital order. The victim may state their opinion on any special conditions for the provisional termination of a hospital order with compulsory treatment, as these may directly affect the victim. For instance, an area ban or an order prohibiting contact may be vitally important to avoid undesirable confrontations between the victim and the subject of the hospital order when the latter returns to society. In addition, the provision of information to victims regarding hearings to extend a hospital order will be improved further. The public prosecutor will explain clearly in advance what the possible outcomes are. Furthermore, the minister proposes to expand the advance payment scheme for victims and surviving relatives to include minor offences. The existing scheme is limited to criminal offences.