Extra commitment from Opstelten and Teeven to trace sentenced fugitives

Minister Opstelten and Secretary of State Teeven (Security and Justice) are taking extra measures to reduce the number of persons that manage to avoid their sentences. Each unit of the National Police Force will have its own sentence enforcement coordination team. In that context, the police will make more efforts to trace fugitives sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 90 days or longer as well as those sentenced for sexual and violent crimes. Moreover, there will be more possibilities to cancel fugitives’ passports or to refuse issuing a passport. The phased detention system will also be abolished.

These measures are set out in a letter regarding the tracing of sentenced persons that the minister and secretary of state sent to the Dutch House of Representatives today. A bill to that end has been submitted to the House of Representatives, which should make it possible to detain suspects or sentenced persons earlier in the criminal trial, preventing them from running away pending trial.

In the letter, the above members of government also address the scope and nature of the final and conclusive custodial sentences that have not yet been enforced (in full or in part). Custodial sentences become outstanding because people are allowed to await the outcome of the criminal trial in freedom, and subsequently knowingly make themselves untraceable for the police and the judiciary. Another category that falls in this group are the individuals that fail to return from leave.

In the recent past, officers have dedicated themselves to get a better insight into the number and nature of outstanding custodial sentences. It concerns 12,936 cases, and another 2760 cases that can be considered ‘backlog’. These 12,936 cases have been entered into the Tracing Register (Opsporingsregister or OPS). The majority concerns persons sentenced on charges of theft or burglary (35.5 per cent). In forty-three per cent of the 15,696 cases, it concerns an outstanding term of imprisonment of less than a month, in eighty per cent a term of imprisonment of less than three months, and in four per cent a term of imprisonment of twelve months or longer.

The extra measures are an addition to measures taken in the past few years to trace fugitives. Since 2008, the Criminal Sentences Enforcement Team (Team Executie Strafvonnissen) of the Public Prosecution Service has dedicated itself to tracing persons sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than 120 days (unsuspended custodial sentences) that have proved untraceable in the Netherlands. In addition, action was taken in 2011 to again review the cases of 6500 sentenced persons in order to assess whether they could be traced after all. That has resulted in the enforcement of 344 sentences. Moreover, it has been possible since 1 January 2011 under new legislation to refrain from paying benefits to fugitives. Since then, payment of benefits to 1200 individuals has been discontinued as a result.

The members of government expect to increase the risk of fugitives being caught. In particular, because it will be possible thanks to the introduction of a National Police Force to work more efficiently. What is more, KPIs have been developed to structurally gain a better insight into performance in terms of the enforcement of custodial sentences.