Government wants convicted offenders to serve sentences sooner

The Minister of Security and Justice will take over the Public Prosecution Service’s task of coordinating the process of enforcing sentences to avoid delays and prevent convicted offenders from serving too little of their sentence or eluding punishment altogether. The aim is to ensure that the organisations involved in enforcing judgments in criminal cases work together more efficiently so that offenders serve their sentences sooner and victims, survivors, care institutions and municipal authorities are better informed about convicted offenders and the sentences imposed by the courts. The cabinet has approved a bill to this effect put forward by the State Secretary for Security and Justice, Fred Teeven, and the Minister of Security and Justice, Ivo Opstelten.

Research conducted over the past few years – including a 2012 study by the Court of Audit – has revealed that there are shortcomings in the way those involved in enforcing judgments work together and that no-one has a complete overview of the process. In addition, sometimes correct information is lacking. This can and must be improved, the bill provides, for example, that every official in the system should be given access to all the information available about current cases, defendants and convicted offenders. It also contains measures to reduce bureaucracy. The new legislation will cut the types of judicial proceedings during the enforcement process by three-quarters and enable defendants and convicted offenders to obtain documents in the action electronically.

To maintain public confidence in the rule of law, it is important to ensure that convicted offenders serve their sentences straight away. At present, however, there are sometimes delays of many months between sentencing and execution. Through swift enforcement the government also aims to prevent offenders evading supervision before they have served out their sentence. The bill dovetails with prior measures taken to improve and expedite the execution of judicial decisions.

Improving the enforcement of sentences is a necessary condition for strengthening the performance of the entire criminal justice system, in which the police, the Public Prosecution Service, the Probation Service and the Central Fine Collection Agency (CJIB) work together. Under the new system, the Public Prosecution Service will send all judicial decisions for enforcement to the administration and information centre responsible for the administrative logistics involved in enforcing judgments, the AICE (Administratie- en Informatie Centrum voor de Executieketen). The AICE falls under the CJIB and ensures that every organisation in the system receives the information it needs to enforce the sentence on time and in the right form. The Minister of Justice will assume a central coordinating role to ensure that policy is implemented uniformly. This will provide a better overview of how well the system is working, enabling adjustments to be made as necessary.

The Public Prosecution Service will remain responsible for setting conditions for release on parole and bringing cases before the criminal court, including in the context of enforcement of judgments (for instance if a convicted offender reoffends and receives a default custodial sentence). In addition, the Public Prosecution Service will also retain the power to intervene in the enforcement of a sentence. Furthermore, the Service can advise the Minister on enforcement issues, such as specific risk factors that could cause public concern.

The cabinet has decided to ask the Council of State to issue an advisory opinion on the bill. The text of the bill and the Council of State’s advisory opinion will be made public upon submission to the House of Representatives.