Senate in favour of national police force and new judicial map

Today, the Senate voted in favour of the implementation of a national police force and a revision of the judicial map of the Netherlands. Both legislative proposals as drawn up by the Minister of Security and Justice were passed, which implies that there will be one national police force as from 1 January, and that the number of District Courts and Courts of Appeal will be reduced.

The national police force will make the streets safer, create more professional leeway for police officers and clear the way for better and faster cooperation between the various parts of the police and other people performing police work. Also, one national police force will reduce administrative costs and enhance uniformity in police action. The implementation of a national police force implies that the present 25 regional forces and the National Police Services Agency (KLPD) will merge into one national force, consisting of ten regional units, one national unit and a support unit for operational management tasks such as ICT and Human Resources. The chief of police will be in charge of the management and supervision of the national police. He will be subordinate to and report to the Minister of Security and Justice.

The national police will be based within reach for the public, i.e. in the neighbourhood and in the municipality. The police will continue to be under local authority. The mayor will continue to manage the police when maintaining public order and providing emergency services in his municipality. The public prosecutor will continue to manage the police in the investigation of criminal offences.

The revision of the judicial map implies that the number of districts for District Courts will be reduced to 10, and the number of districts for Courts of Appeal to 4: a new step in a long history. The Netherlands has had five Courts of Appeal since 1877; the 19 District Courts were established in 1934. The new regulation will take effect on 1 January 2013, simultaneously with the Police Act.

The new geographical distribution of District Courts and Courts of Appeal is necessary to ensure that the quality of the judiciary’s work will keep pace with the ever-increasing requirements of today’s society. This up-scaling will increase the possibilities of handling cases within a District Court or Court of Appeal in a more structured manner. For example, cases will be heard sooner and will be distributed more efficiently among a larger staff. The increased inflow of court cases will be sufficient to gain and maintain knowledge and expertise. The present division into jurisdictions renders the judiciary vulnerable, due to the fact that the means and people’s knowledge and expertise cannot be implemented and assigned in the best possible way. 

The judiciary will get more opportunities to gain expertise in specialist areas. The larger courts will also be able to administer customised justice. As overall deployable staff will perform the regular work, another group of staff members will be able to specialise. The administration of justice will become more visible and transparent for the public. In the past, there were many locations that handled sub-district court cases only. From 1 January on, citizens will have 32 locations available for other common legal issues as well. 

Each District Court and each Court of Appeal will have several court locations, which will be designated by order in council. In addition, the Minister may designate other locations, for instance temporary locations for trying large-scale cases. In consultation with all parties involved, the courts will decide how cases will be divided among the court locations. 

The Minister will prepare and submit a legislative amendment as soon as possible in order to divide the initially proposed district of the Eastern Netherlands into Overijssel and Gelderland. As a result, there will be eleven districts for District Courts instead of ten, due to the motion tabled in the debate on the legislative proposal and carried by the Senate today. The proposed districts for the Courts of Appeal will remain unchanged at four. The Courts of Appeal in Arnhem and Leeuwarden will be combined.