Violence committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs will be punished more severely

Minister Opstelten of Security and Justice intends to punish violent offences committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs more severely. The police will register the use of alcohol and drugs when a violent offence is committed in order to be able to designate such use as a ground for increasing the punishment. The police will also be authorised to conduct drugs and alcohol tests from those suspected of violent offences for this purpose. The Minister intends to amend the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure. Minister Opstelten informed the Lower House thereof today.

Research shows that there is a relationship between the use of alcohol and drugs and violence such as violence in entertainment areas or domestic violence. Alcohol is in particular a risk-increasing factor during violent offences. Minister Opstelten therefore wishes to impose more severe punishments on those who commit violence while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Public Prosecution Service has indicated that it will include the use of alcohol or drugs as a ground for increasing the punishment in its guidelines. If it appears that alcohol or drugs have been used, the Public Prosecutor may demand a more severe punishment. The use of alcohol or drugs is no excuse where it concerns the use of violence, but rather entails more responsibility. The above comprises Opstelten's compliance with his promises to the Lower House made during the General Consultations on Safe Public Services.

Sound preparation

The police already conducted several pilots in 2007 in preparation of the intended registration of alcohol and drug use with respect to violent offences. The extent of violence committed under the influence of alcohol turned out to comprise 31% of the total of violent offences. It concerned severe violence in nearly 50% of the cases, while the rate of recidivism stood at 50%. In addition, it became clear that only 10% of police reports currently contain information about alcohol or drug use when the violent offence was committed. An analysis of the technical, financial and implementation effects of the measure was performed in the period 2009-2010 before introducing the registration. The measure relates to both property and persons, which means that it includes vandalism.

Purpose

The measure announced by Minister Opstelten is intended to prevent recidivism. In addition, it must become possible to impose more severe punishments in respect of violence committed while under the influence. Behavioural interventions that can lead to a reduction of recidivism are available to those who have committed violence while under the influence. Specific conditions such as an alcohol prohibition or an exclusion order contribute to a reduction of recidivism and safer streets. Registration also has a repressive purpose: designating the use of alcohol or drugs as a ground for increasing the punishment, which means that a higher punishment may be demanded. Opstelten hopes that the measure will prevent violent offences and recidivism and consequently make the Netherlands safer.

Registration

Registration of alcohol or drug use during violent offences will form a basic condition for both imposing targeted behavioural interventions and for designating said use as a ground for increasing the punishment. After all, if the police does not register these data, the use of alcohol or drugs cannot be taken into account during the judicial process.

The determination that alcohol or drugs have been used during the commission of violent offences by means of alcohol or drugs tests is necessary to have an increase of the demand awarded. For this reason, Minister Opstelten wants to create the possibility in the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure of applying coercive measures, such as a breath test or blood test, for the purpose of registering alcohol or drugs use during violent offences. The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) will be asked to examine what alcohol or drug use values can apply as ground for increasing the punishment.