False imprisonment costs Dutch society €29 million per year: report
More than 6,100 suspects have bee wrongfully detained in the Netherlands over the past year, for which they got more than 11 million euros in damages. If other compensations such as legal fees, travel expenses and loss of income are included, these wrongfully imprisoned people cost the government about 28.8 million euros - that is excluding the average of 250 euros per day it costs to detain someone, The Volkskrant reports.
The number of wrongfully detained people has more than tripled in the past decade. According to Geert-Jan van Oosten, secretary of the Dutch Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, this can partly be attributed to the speed at which Dutch courts decide to take a suspect into custody. "Dutch judges think about it too easy and take too little time for these kinds of decisions. Sometimes 20 to 30 cases are handled in one morning and there is only a few minutes per case." he said to the newspaper. About 50 percent of all the prisoners in the Netherlands are in custody before being convicted in court. Van Oosten thinks that alternatives, such as house arrest with an ankle monitor, confiscating passports, night arrest or posting bail, should be looked at.
According to judge Elianne van Rens, of the Council for the Judiciary, it is not so simple. "A plan for probation is needed for an ankle monitor and that takes at least a month." the judge told the Volkskrant. "Taking a passport does not make much sense since the disappearance of the European borders. And when imposing a bail, it is very difficult to determine the amount which will make someone report when needed." Probation Netherlands denies that arranging an ankle monitor takes a month. According to Hanneke de Korte of Probation, a request for an ankle monitor takes a few days at most if judges make use of their website.
The Netherlands has been the front runner in Europe for taking suspects into custody since 2003. Judge Van Rense explains that this is due to pressure from politicians and society. "We are constantly hammered on stricter punishment", she said. "That pressure has an effect on the judges' decisions. As press judge I am constantly called by the Ministry of Justice; I had to justify why a magistrate had suspended a suspects pre-arrest who then abused a woman at a supermarket. Judges are increasingly aware that such suspensions causes a lot of commotion."