Longer supervision for violent criminals and sex offenders

Serious violent offenders, sex offenders and persons detained under a hospital order may be placed under intensive supervision for longer periods upon being granted conditional release in order to prevent recidivism.

This new public-protection measure will allow immediate action to be taken if there are signs that an offender is relapsing or likely to reoffend. The cabinet has adopted a legislative proposal to this effect drawn up by State Secretary for Security and Justice Fred Teeven.

Currently, the maximum period of conditional release for offenders who have undergone compulsory treatment in a secure psychiatric institution is nine years. The new measure will eliminate this time limit. From now on, after the initial nine years the courts may continue to extend the supervision for further periods of one or two years if the probability of re-offending has not been sufficiently reduced. This will enable the Probation Service to monitor persons placed under a hospital order for longer.

In addition, it will be possible to impose long-term, or even lifelong, supervision on serious violent offenders and sex offenders who have served their custodial sentence or whose parole period has ended, but are likely to reoffend or need to be prevented from behaving in a threatening manner towards victims or witnesses. It will also be possible to impose supervision after a suspended hospital order or a hospital order with compulsory treatment that is subject to a maximum term.

Courts will be able to enforce a supervision order for a period of two, three, four or five years, and renew it repeatedly. The total duration of the order will not be subject to a maximum. For example, the court could impose a ban on drug or alcohol consumption, order treatment by an expert or care institution, or prohibit certain kinds of voluntary work. The latter is intended to prevent these kinds of offenders from volunteering with childcare organisations or working with vulnerable groups, such as elderly or homeless people.

The courts will also be able to impose a restraining order, a requirement to report to the police on a regular basis, an order to move house or a ban on residing in a particular area, for example if the offender lives near the victim. A travel ban could be useful in the case of offenders convicted of human trafficking or sex offenders who might engage in (child) sex tourism abroad.

Furthermore, the government wants to set a minimum operational period of one year in all cases of release on parole, which could be extended by up to two years if warranted by the offender’s behaviour. This will make it easier to use special conditions to achieve behaviour modification among offenders serving sentences of less than two years. It will also enable the criminal justice authorities to respond better when offenders fail to comply with the conditions.

The cabinet has decided to send the bill to the Council of State, requesting an advisory opinion. The text of the bill and the Council of State’s advisory opinion will be published when they are submitted to the House of Representatives.