Senate agrees to extension of the right to speak

The Upper House has passed the legislative proposal submitted by Mr Teeven, the State Secretary of Security and Justice, extending the right to speak for victims and surviving relatives in criminal proceedings. The State Secretary has thus realised an important item of the coalition agreement.

The right to speak can help victims cope with the crime and confront offenders with the consequences of their crime. The new regulation will enter into force on 1 September 2012. At present, only one surviving relative is allowed to speak at the hearing. This has proven insufficient. Before long, in addition to the deceased victim’s partner, a maximum of three surviving relatives will have the right to speak at the hearing, which may be a child or a parent of the victim, but also other relatives, such as grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, nieces/nephews, aunts and uncles with whom the victim had a close relationship. Also, parents or guardians will have the right to speak on behalf of minor victims who are still too young to talk about how the crime has affected them. Minor victims who are capable of speaking at a hearing may continue to do so. This will not change.

Another new aspect is that the right to speak may be exercised on behalf of victims who are unable to speak at the hearing, due to their physical or mental condition as a result of the crime. The circle of speakers is the same as the circle of surviving relatives. Under the new regulation, victims or surviving relatives who do not want to make use of their right to speak themselves, or are afraid to do so, can have their legal counsel or an employee of Victims Support Netherlands speak on their behalf. At the hearing, the victim may speak about the ways in which the offence has affected him or her. The defence will not be allowed to question the victim about those consequences. After all, it is in keeping with the right to speak that victims are given an opportunity to make a statement that may not be refuted.