Thursday, 29 January 2015 - 13:55
Crime sentences tougher on ethnic minorities: new research
Suspects with two Dutch parents receive a prison sentence less often than suspects whose parents aren't both Dutch. The prison sentences for people who don't have two Dutch parents are also often longer than the sentences for people whose parents are both Dutch. Researchers at the University of Leiden did a research study to find out whether this means that the judges in the Netherlands discriminate. They found no hard evidence that this was the case. By order of the Council for the Judiciary, these researchers further investigated these ethnic related differences. This study focused mainly on the kind of punishment and the length of the sentence that different criminals received. The researchers studied more than 110 thousand criminal cases from the period 2005 to 2007. They also spoke to 1,500 prisoners that received a prison sentence in 2010 and 211. They found that prisoners with two Dutch parents had a 7 percent chance of receiving a prison sentence for a qualified theft (a theft in which weapons were used). Turks and Antilleans of the second generation were worse off - they had a 11 percent chance of going to prison for a similar offense. The researchers were able to explain a lot of the differences by adjusting the results for personal circumstances of the suspect, such as the presence of a criminal record. Judges also often sentence employed people to community service, as a prison sentence usually means that the suspect will lose his/her job. There are also other factors that explain the differences in sentencing. Perpetrators of non-Dutch origin deny more often, are more often tried for a drug offence and were in custody more often and for longer. Even taking all those factors into account, a (small) part of the differences in sentencing remains unexplained. Frits Bakker, chairman of the Council for the Judiciary, wants that last part to also be examined. "The suggestion that judges discriminate, is at odds with the core values of the court." There has often been research done on ethnic related differences in sentencing. In 2012 the Nederlands Juristenblad published a study on the role of a suspects characteristics. The study found that offenders with a non-Dutch appearance who can speak the Dutch language are more likely to be convicted than suspects with a Dutch appearance who also speaks Dutch. The chance of a conviction appeared to be the greatest for a suspect who does not look or speak Dutch. This study was the reason for this latest study by the University of Leiden.