Minister Dekker to expand fugitive convicts strategy
In recent years, the Ministry of Justice and Security, the Police, the Public Prosecution Service, the Central Fine Collection Agency (CJIB) and the Judicial Information Service (Justid) have successfully traced a large number of fugitive convicts. Thanks to their combined efforts, 1,466 people who still had to serve a prison sentence were apprehended, reducing the number of convicted persons who remain fugitives from the law. This information emerged from a letter that Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker submitted to the Dutch House of Representatives. In addition, he announced additional measures to prevent convicted persons from becoming untraceable. Dekker also said he planned to expand the strategy to cover those evading other sentences.
'In a country under the rule of law, people who deserve a sentence should actually serve that sentence. I feel that we have an obligation towards victims and surviving relatives to ensure that convicted persons serve the sentence that they have received. Naturally, I am pleased that we now have every fugitive convict in our sights and have already apprehended so many of them who were still residing in the Netherlands. The next step is to prevent convicted persons from disappearing without a trace.'
Thanks to the Police and Public Prosecution Service's Untraceable Convicts programme and the work done by the Fugitive Active Search Team (FAST), the number of convicted persons who still had to serve a prison sentence fell once more last year. The programme carried out extensive public record searches, which included combing social media accounts. Furthermore, an app was developed for police officers to search for outstanding sentences. This led to the apprehension of 963 persons who were evading an outstanding prison sentence in just over a year, far in excess of the target of 520 agreed with the Police for 2019. Because of the efforts of FAST, which focuses on convicted persons traced abroad who have more than 300 days left to serve, 503 persons have been apprehended since 2016, of whom 135 in 2019.
Expanding the strategy
Minister Dekker intends to do more to ensure that convicted criminals can no longer hide from the law. The approach will be three-pronged:
- Prevention. The most effective measure is to prevent convicted persons from evading their sentence. Of those that successfully do so, 90 per cent flee abroad, after which the chance of them serving their sentence is much reduced. Thanks to agreements between the judiciary and the Public Prosecution Service, the risk of evasion can now be assessed more accurately. In addition, a trial will be launched to apply accelerated proceedings to persons who present an elevated evasion risk, so that the sentence can be carried out immediately. Furthermore, an investigation will be carried out into the feasibility of revoking the suspension of pre-trial detention if a risk of evasion exists and whether making a suspension conditional on the payment of a deposit could be a deterrent to evasion.
- More effective detection. Work to detect untraceable convicts will continue unabated. Initial results show that the 'Single Authority' approach in Amsterdam, which was announced last year, is bearing fruit. When fugitives come out of hiding to renew their passport or apply for an identity document, the Police are called. This has led to multiple apprehensions. Consultation is under way with a view to rolling out this approach to Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague. Moreover, Minister Dekker will step up his efforts to have outstanding short-term sentences recognised internationally. At the moment, such sentences are not recognised in other countries, which present convicted persons with an opportunity for evasion. To prevent them from evading their sentence indefinitely by remaining in hiding long enough (whether in the Netherlands or abroad), Minister Dekker is preparing a legislative proposal to abolish enforcement terms.
- Expansion to other sentences. Now that the strategy has proven successful with regard to outstanding prison sentences, the next step is to apply the same approach to other sentences. As a consequence, it will be expanded to cover outstanding compensation orders, confiscation orders and fines. This way, those convicted of other offences will also no longer be able to evade justice.