Investing in tackling crime and access to justice
Serious organised crime is disruptive to our society. The Dutch government will invest a sizeable amount of money over the coming years in a comprehensive approach to organised crime. Serious crime can be better addressed by joining forces with each other. At the same time, our justice system needs to be accessible to everyone. The government is therefore also taking steps to improve access to justice, including by reducing the court fees.
Each day, thousands of people work to guarantee our safety: from police officers and special investigating officers to public prosecutors and judges. These people make sure that the rule of law functions properly and that the Netherlands is and remains a safe and free country.
Tackling organised crime and subversion
We tackle serious organised crime in cooperation with all involved parties within and outside of the criminal justice system. The shared goal is to deprive serious criminals of any opportunity to commit crimes. That is done through a combination of prevention, breaking the cycle of crime, punishment and protection.
The efforts are largely focused on making sure young children do not grow up to be serious criminals. Vulnerable youth can easily fall prey to criminals, who use them to take care of their dirty work. Once entangled in the world of crime, these youth can become involved in serious offences. Community policy officers, youth workers, teachers and municipalities work together to prevent youth being drawn into crime. Next year, 103 million euros will be put towards this preventive and community-oriented approach.
One of the ways in which the business models of criminals will be tackled is by disrupting their logistics chains. In 2023, the Dutch government will invest 23.5 million euros to tackle drug trafficking through harbours, transport companies and Schiphol airport. With these funds, access control, camera surveillance networks and staff screening can be reinforced. In addition, 40 million euros will be set aside for the fight against organised, subversive crime.
Efforts to investigate and severely punish criminals have now resulted in the arrest of an exceptional category of serious criminals. Even whilst incarcerated, these criminals tend to be ruthless and dangerous. They will do whatever it takes to keep their criminal business going whilst serving time or to escape prison.
Next year, the government will invest 34 million euros to prevent criminals continuing their activities during their detainment. A fourth Intensive Supervision Division will be established in a prison. Prisons will be given additional funds to gather information about their detainees, and safer forms of adjudication will be invested in. For instance, the use of videoconferencing will eliminate the need for transportation to court, which can be risky.
Access to justice
In addition to taking a hard line on crime, to ensure a properly functioning rule of law, it is important that people can easily access the justice system. The door to our justice system must remain open to anyone seeking justice. That access can be offered through reliable and comprehensible information, clear legal counsel and, ultimately, the adjudication of a legal dispute in court.
To ensure the courts remain easily accessible, the government will lower the court fees. These costs associated with conducting legal proceedings can form a barrier for citizens and SMEs to seeking justice. In 2024, the fees for simple proceedings will be lowered by 25%. An amount of 55 million euros will be earmarked for this purpose.
The government will also set aside an amount of 155 million euros for additional judges and other court staff. This will help ensure proceedings can be heard more quickly. The funds are also intended to bring the judicial system closer to the people, for instance by having judges hold community hearings, and for further digitalisation and innovation.
However, in many cases, a court hearing is not needed to resolve a legal dispute. People are often better served with other solutions. Reliable information and expert advice can, for example, help people get out of debt. This is more helpful to them than legal proceedings regarding payment would be. The same goes for the use of mediation. The government is working on making these forms of support for legal problems easily accessible, among other things by organising consultation hours in communities or online.
Effective asylum and migration policy
The government is allocating additional funds for crisis relief for asylum seekers, housing and the civic integration of asylum permit holders. Between 2022 and 2027, a total of over 1 billion euros will be invested in this.
In addition, the government has made administrative agreements with the security regions, provinces and municipalities to create more reception centres for asylum seekers and promote the outflow of asylum permit holders. The government is also taking steps to regulate the influx of asylum seekers and the rate at which they are taking up accommodation elsewhere, by extending the waiting period for family reunification, for instance.