Dozens of criminals in Netherlands unjustly get benefits: report

An UWV location in Groningen (Fruggo/nl.wikipedia). ()

Dozens of convicted criminals are still receiving benefits, despite having an outstanding prison sentence against their names, RTL Nieuws reports based on its own research. The police and judiciary can't find them to arrest them, but social services and benefits agency UWV know how to find them to pay their benefits, the broadcaster writes. 

The government has been trying to put an end to this situation for years, but it can often take months for a benefit to be stopped.In addition, fugitive convicts often manage to reclaim their benefits through court. RTL found 13 cases in which courts ordered social services or UWV to start paying a fugitive convict's benefits again.

According to the courts, not serving a sentence is not reason enough to halt a benefit. The judiciary must first prove that the convicted person is deliberately trying to avoid his punishment. This involves showing that the convict was informed that he must serve his sentence, and the police made one or more attempts to arrest him. "A single report that a person identified in the investigation register was not found at home is not sufficient", a press judge of the Central Appeals Tribunal said to the broadcaster.

In one case a court allowed a man who still had to serve 3 weeks in prison to keep his social assistance benefit. The police visited him three times, but he was never at home. According to the court, it couldn't be proven that the man knew the police were looking for him. In another case a man left for Australia with the UWV's permission. He did not return, and therefore avoided his community service. A judge converted it to a 10 week prison sentence. But as the extradition treaty between the Netherlands and Australia only applies to prison sentences of 6 months or longer, there is no legal means to get him back to the Netherlands. The court ruled that he can keep his disability benefit. 

The Ministry of Justice and Security told RTL that from now on the UWV and social services will first send a warning letter to the convicted fugitive, before stopping his or her benefit. The Ministry hopes that this will meet the courts' requirements that a convict must know the police are looking for him or her, and further reduce the number of benefits paid to fugitive convicts.