Teeven: the offender will pay
State Secretary Teeven for Security and Justice wants to prevent the situation in which victims of crimes are not being paid any compensation because the defendant has succeeded in siphoning his assets before being convicted. In the future, the State will have the possibility of levying a prejudgement attachment of the assets of a defendant for the benefit of the victim even during the criminal investigation. In urgent cases, this attachment will also be possible when the offender is caught in the act. The police may confiscate the money and items that the suspect is carrying with him at the time of his arrest.
This is apparent from a Bill that was sent to various agencies including the police, the Public Prosecution Service, the Council for the Judiciary, Victim Support Netherlands, and the Netherlands Bar Association for their opinion. With this Bill, Teeven has given content to his policy to strengthen the position of victims and to take tougher measures against offenders. The measures result from the Coalition Agreement.
After the State has levied prejudgement attachment on the assets of the defendant for the benefit of the victim, it will ultimately be the trial judge who decides on the amount of compensation. If the defendant is ordered to pay, the first to receive payment is the victim. Any remaining amount will accrue to the State to pay the fine imposed by the judge or to satisfy the demand for a confiscation order. If the judge hearing the case does not pronounce an order for compensation, the attachment will automatically be lifted as soon as the judgment has become final.
The State Secretary furthermore stated he wants to oblige convicted persons to deposit a fixed amount in a state account to improve the judicial services provided to victims. The activities of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund, the advance scheme, and strengthening the position of the victim in criminal law or law of criminal procedure lead to expenses that are currently paid by society. Teeven is of the opinion that convicted persons must make a financial contribution to these expenses. They are after all the persons who have caused the damage or injury. Sweden and Belgium have similar regulations. In those countries, criminals pay € 50 and € 137.50, respectively. The State Secretary will decide on the height of the mandatory amount at a later date.
In another Bill that was submitted for opinion today, Teeven is providing for the expansion of the right to speak of victims and surviving relatives in the criminal proceedings. The right to speak may help the victim in coping with the crime and in confronting the offender with the consequences. This measure is also part of the policy to improve the support provided to victims.
An evaluation in 2010 revealed that between 230 to 260 persons a year had exercised the right to speak, including 50 surviving relatives. In particular surviving relatives and victims of serious offences tell their stories in court. The possibility to draw up a written statement was used about 3,000 times a year. The victims stated that they appreciate the right to speak. Among surviving relatives and legal representatives of victims who are too young to exercise the right to speak, there is a need for expansion of the current provisions.
Only one surviving relative is currently permitted to tell his or her story in court. This turned out to be too limited in practice. In addition to the life partner or former life partner of the deceased victim, a maximum of three surviving relatives will have the right to speak in the future. These relatives may be the victim’s child or parent, but also other relatives such as grandparents, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, and uncles with whom the victim had a close relationship.
The parents or guardians will furthermore have the right to speak on behalf of minor victims who cannot tell about the consequences of the crime in court because of their young age. Minor victims who are able to speak in court personally will continue to be permitted to do so. This will not change.
Another new provision is that the right to speak may be exercised on behalf of victims who are not able to speak in court due to a physical or mental disability. The circle of speakers is the same as the one in respect of surviving relatives.
In the future, it will be possible for victims or surviving relatives who cannot or do not want to exercise their right to speak themselves to have their counsel or workers from Victim Support Netherlands speak on their behalf.
The State Secretary has maintained the position that the victim is not permitted to express an opinion on the desired sentence. That will be for the judge to decide, who bases its judgment on what has been put forward during the examination in court with reference to the charge.