Always jail time for assaulting first responders, Minister says

Violence against emergency workers
Violence against emergency workers. (Photo: Politie Dordrecht / Facebook)

Minister Sander Dekker for Legal Protection is working on a law that will prevent judges from only giving community service sentences to people who used violence against aid workers and police officers. In all cases these offenders have to go to jail, even if only for a day, Dekker announced on Tuesday, AD reports.

The new law prescribes that violence against "officials with a public task" will be punished with imprisonment, even if no injury was inflicted. Dekker hopes that this will have a "deterrent effect". "We ask people to be in the front line for us, then we must do everything to protect them", he said. 

The measure is remarkable as it restricts the freedom of judges to provide customization in criminal cases, but it is not unique. A similar prohibition on only giving community service is already in place for serious violent or sexual crimes. Judges work around this by sometimes only imposing one day in prison, according to the newspaper. The court can still give community service, but only when linked to a prison sentence. 

Combating violence against aid workers has been a priority in the Netherlands for some time. According to the judiciary, one in three people with a public task are confronted with some form of aggression. In 2017 there were 7,502 criminal cases against people suspected of violence against officials with a public task, including civil servants. 

Earlier this week Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security announced that he wants harsher punishments for hindering aid workers in their work, increasing the punishment from one to three months in prison. The punishment for threatening mayors will be doubled from two to four years in prison.

The Public Prosecutor has also demanded three times higher punishments in cases involving violence against first responders since 2011. Though this is only a guideline - the maximum sentence is not always demanded and the courts do not always impose it.