Thousands unjustly punished by Prosecutor: report

Thousands of people were unjustly punished in settlements made with the Public Prosecutor over the past years, NRC reports based on information the newspaper requested from the Public Prosecution Service. The Public Prosecutor disputes this conclusion.

The data shows that guilt was not correctly determined in 6 percent of settlements with punishment last year, according to the newspaper. With more than 30 thousand such settlements each year, that comes down to 2 thousand cases in which guilt was not properly proven.

In 2008 the Public Prosecutor was given the power to impose penalties in settlements for crimes with a maximum punishment of six years in prison. This involves crimes like theft, assault or weapons possession. The Public Prosecutor can not impose prison sentences, but penalties like fines, community service, and restraining orders are allowed. And such a settlement can result in a criminal record. The intention behind such settlements is to have fewer cases end up in court, though a suspect can insist that his case be tried by a judge.

The internal report NRC requested states that 6 percent of the settlements did not involve "adequate guilt determination". In these cases there was not enough evidence or the files were incomplete, for example. In some cases punishment was imposed for the wrong crime, according to the newspaper. 

In a reaction to NRC the Public Prosecutor denies that people were unjustly punished. The fact that researchers from the Public Prosecution Service came to a different conclusion than the Prosecutor that handed the case does not necessarily mean that the punishment was unjust, "but only indicates that things could be considered differently", the Prosecutor said. The Prosecutor also pointed out that there has been "strong improvement", because in 2016 a total of 15 percent of punishments in settlements were imposed without sufficient evidence.

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