Opstelten: always prosecute perpetrators of serious crimes

Minister of Security and Justice Opstelten considers it undesirable that those who commit, for example, rape, human trafficking and manslaughter, can escape punishment by the mere passage of time. Prosecution of serious crimes must always be possible. He therefore abolishes prescription with respect to crimes that are liable to a term of imprisonment of twelve years or more. This also applies to serious sex crimes involving children. Currently, only crimes liable to life imprisonment are not subject to prescription.

Furthermore, the term of prescription of crimes liable to a term of imprisonment of eight years or more will be extended. Said term will become 20 years instead of the current 12 years. This includes, inter alia, gross maltreatment and robbery.

The measures arise from the coalition agreement and are in line with the Dutch government's intention to improve the position of victims and surviving relatives. In future, they will be able to file a claim for damages for a longer period of time. For example, in the event of damage caused by injury or death that term now expires after five years. Mr Opstelten proposes making the damage of all crimes liable to compensation if the Public Prosecution Service is able to prosecute the offender. This means that victims and surviving relatives of serious crimes will be able to claim compensation for many years.

The Minister considers it justified to abolish the term of prescription with respect to serious crimes. The need felt in society to punish offenders continues to exist even after a long time has passed, especially among victims and surviving relatives. Moreover, in a broad sense these crimes harm the confidence of citizens in the rule of law and their sense of safety.

Satisfaction of the victims should outweigh the argument that the case must be closed at some time, according to Mr Opstelten.

In addition, modern investigative methods, such as DNA examination, make it possible to gather evidence and solve crimes even after a long period of time has passed. There are also serious crimes that are not discovered until much later, such as illustrated by the sexual abuse of children. The new regulation means that juvenile victims can also seek satisfaction for the suffering that was caused to them.

In future, the abolishment of the term of prescription will not just apply to crimes that were committed on the date the Act entered into effect or thereafter, but also to offences that were at that time not yet prescribed.

This is evident from two legislative proposals that were today sent to various agencies for advice, such as the Public Prosecution Service, the Council for the Judiciary and the Netherlands Bar Association (NOvA).