Suspects now required to be present in court

Victims or their surviving relatives should have the opportunity to tell a suspect what the crime has done to them. That is why suspects of serious sexual offences and violent crimes will be obliged to attend their court hearing and verdict from now on. This is made possible by the Expansion of Victims’ Rights Act put forward by Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker, which the Senate passed today.

In the current situation, it is up to suspects themselves to decide whether they attend their hearing. In countries like Germany and France, it is compulsory for suspects of more serious crimes to be present. This amendment of the law introduces a similar obligation in the Netherlands. Furthermore, it is important for the suspects themselves to witness what happens during the hearing and hear what the parties involved have to say. The suspect’s attendance also allows the judge and the public prosecutor to question the suspect in person, which allows them to gain a more accurate impression of who the suspect is and facilitates them in their efforts to determine the true sequence of events.

Minister Dekker:

‘It can be extremely painful for victims if they have to tell their story to an empty chair. Especially in serious cases, it is therefore only normal that the suspect should be present during the hearing.’

Extension of right to address the court to stepfamilies and in case of hospital orders

From now on, the stepfamily of a deceased victim will also have the right to address the court. This is to ensure that the surviving relatives of children from blended families also have their say. This includes not only stepparents, but also stepsiblings.

The right to address the court will take place at a fixed time during the hearing in the criminal proceedings, namely prior to the public prosecutor’s closing argument. This will allow the public prosecutor to take what they have to say into account when presenting the demand for sentencing.

Victims or surviving relatives now also have the right to address the court during hospital order extension hearings. This way, they will be able to tell the judge how the perpetrator’s return to society affects them and why they want an order prohibiting contact or an injunction to stay away. This may affect any special conditions for the provisional termination of a hospital order with compulsory treatment.

Expansion of the advance payment scheme for damages

The new law also provides for the expansion of the advance payment scheme for victims and surviving relatives. The state already has the power the advance the remaining amount in damages to the victim(s) of a crime if the perpetrator has not paid in full within eight months. That power has been extended to victims of all criminal offences, i.e. both crimes and offences.

The date of the law’s entry into force will be determined in consultation with the chain organisations.