Fmr. Justice sec. cut on legal aid to get harsher punishments; lawyers furious

While State Secretary of Security and Justice in the Rutte II cabinet, Fred Teeven (VVD) implemented budget cuts on legal aid after he realized that the PvdA would not make criminal stricter and implement minimum punishments, weekly newspaper De Groene Amsterdammer reports. "It's another way to achieve the same effect", the newspaper quotes him. Lawyers in the Netherlands are furious.

After realizing that minimum punishments were an impossibility in the VVD-PvdA coalition, Teeven "focused on cuts on the lawyers", Teeven said according to the newspaper. "It's another way to achieve the same effect. If you do not give a lawyer a lot of time to spend on a suspect, then the defense will not be all that much."

In a reaction to NOS Teeven said that he does not recognize himself in the statements De Groene Amsterdammer quotes him saying. According to him, he had contact with the journalist when he was a parliamentarian, but he never gave a real interview and never agreed to this article being published. "I don't stand behind this", he said tot he broadcaster. He added that cuts were made "for budgetary considerations". This article was third in a series De Groene Amsterdammer wrote about emotion in the judiciary. Teeven said that in the first two articles he was quoted correctly. He is preparing a lawsuit against author Henri Beunders. 

Bart van Tongeren of the Dutch Order of Lawyers is stunned by Teeven's motives and demands that the cuts be reversed or stopped. "Cutting off defense in criminal cases limits access to justice and is a violation of the rule of law", he said on Twitter. To broadcaster NOS he added that he wants an independent investigation into the effects of the already made budget cuts. "I want to know what the consequences are for citizens and future suspects."

The Dutch association of criminal law attorneys NVSA was also stunned by Teeven's statements, calling them "shocking" and "astounding", NOS reports. "We find it unacceptable that the cuts made and still to be implemented were - other than was systematically told us - not made out of financial need."

Former PvdA parliamentarian Jeroen Recourt called Teeven's statements "retrospective boasting" for boosting his right-wing profile. "Not to be taken seriously", he said to BNR. "the cuts were agreed upon in the formation. He was not part of it. He had to carry them out. Furthermore they eventually did not go through, so his work (luckily) failed again. His statement also reveals a vision of the criminal law that [Russian president] Putin and [Turkish president] Erdogan would love."

De Groene Amsterdammer also spoke to Teeven about the unjust detainment of suspects. Teeven told the paper that he is "not losing sleep" over the fact that more and more suspects are unjustly detained in the Netherlands. "Every day we have such a suspect in custody can also be an advantage", Teeven said, according to the paper. "And it is also not so that if someone is acquitted, he didn't do it."

In March the College for Human Rights criticized Dutch judges for not properly motivating why suspects are placed in remand.

Historian Henri Beunders, author of the article, told the Volkskrant that Teeven did make the statements. "And he knew I was going to publish this in De Groene. The article was also submitted to him in several ways. I have confirmation that he received them, but he did not respond to it."

Teeven was State Secretary of Security and Justice between 2010 and 2015, under fellow VVD Minister Ivo Opstelten. He resigned over a controversial deal made with a drug criminal while he was still a prosecutor. That eventually came to be known as the Teeven-deal. After his resignation he served as a parliamentarian for the VVD. He was not listed as a potential parliamentarian in the election on March 15th. According to NOS, his name is mentioned as a potential candidate for the Council of State.