Lower sentences for human trafficking

The courts are reducing the length of custodial sentences imposed for human trafficking. The average length of the non-suspended custodial sentences imposed by the courts has decreased from well over two years in 2011-2013 to just eighteen months in 2015. This lowering of sentences started in 2014. This is a striking development, as the legislative has significantly increased the penalty twice since 2009 to emphasise the seriousness of the offence of human trafficking. These conclusions appear in the Human Trafficking Monitor of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children.

The second part of the Monitor addresses the prosecution and trial of human trafficking suspects. A total of 1,332 cases were received by the Public Prosecution Service (the "Service") between 2011 and 2015. Strikingly, the number of cases registered with the Service decreased by 23% in 2015 from the previous year. According to Ms Corinne Dettmeijer, the National Rapporteur, a possible explanation for this decrease by 217 registered cases is the reduction in police investigations into human trafficking due to capacity problems. "The figures on the victims, too, support the notion that the police is suffering from problems, leading to a decreasing attention for human trafficking. It is, then, a very positive development that the Minister of Security and Justice on Budget Day announced that the fight against human trafficking would be intensified."

Lack of evidence

2015 also witnessed a sharp increase in the number of dismissals by reason of unlikelihood of conviction. While, on average, 20% of all cases was dismissed in this way over 2011 through 2014, this figure rose to 30% in 2015. The decision to dismiss a case in this fashion usually results from a lack of evidence. A dismissal means that the suspect will not be summoned to appear, as it is unlikely they will be convicted. The Service identified capacity and expertise problems within the police force and the changing nature of human trafficking cases as possible reasons for this record number of dismissals by reason of unlikelihood of conviction.

More acquittals

In 24% of the 819 cases in which the court pronounced judgment the suspect was acquitted of having committed human trafficking. 73% of the suspects was convicted for human trafficking. A notable recent development concerns the conviction to acquittal ratio. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of convictions per acquittal continued to increase, up to six or seven convictions per acquittal in 2014. This trend was broken in 2015: the conviction to acquittal ratio was only 2:1, meaning that for every three final judgments on the substance of the case, two resulted in a conviction and one in an acquittal.


Many human trafficking suspects are young. In 2015, well over one in five suspects was an adolescent (18 to 22 years of age) or even a minor. Says Ms Dettmeijer: "It is striking that persons commit so serious an offence as human trafficking while so young." Almost half (45%) of the suspects was born in the Netherlands. Other common countries of origin of suspects are Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Suriname, Morocco, the former Netherlands Antilles and Turkey. Says Ms Dettmeijer: "We find that the victims and the perpetrators are often from the same country."

About the investigation

The first part of the Human Trafficking Monitor investigated the possible victims of human trafficking on the basis of reports made to CoMensha, the Human Trafficking Coordination Centre. The second part of the Human Trafficking Monitor on the basis of information provided by the Public Prosecution Service investigated the perpetrators of human trafficking and the extent to which they are being prosecuted and sentenced.


About the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children

National RapporteurMs Corrine Dettmeijer reports to the government on the nature and extent of human trafficking and sexual violence against children in the Netherlands. The National Rapporteur monitors the effects of the government policies pursued in this connection and issues recommendations aimed at improving the fight against human trafficking and sexual violence against children.