Parents of murdered kids want harsher punishments for juvenile offenders
The parents of murdered children Romy Nieuwburg, Savannah Dekker, and Nick Bood launched a petition calling for higher sentences in juvenile criminal law. Their children were killed by minors, and all three offenders received the maximum juvenile sentence of one or two years of juvenile detention plus youth institutionalized treatment. That is not high enough, according to the parents, NOS reports.
In the petition, the parents write: "We as parents have made it our mission to increase the duration of juvenile detention. We hope that everyone in the Netherlands wants to support us in this mission." They call for sentences between two and five years for offenders between the ages of 14 and 18 years old. "So that the judge can apply gradients according to the nature of the offense. Now a judge has no choice."
Under Dutch law, children aged 14 and 15 can be sentenced to juvenile detention for up to one year. For children aged 16 and 17 the maximum detention is two years. A judge can also impose a so-called PIJ measure - placement in an institution for young people for treatment. This measure can last up to seven years. In exceptional cases, the PIJ measure can be converted into institutionalized psychiatric treatment for adults. The court can also choose to try 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.
16-year-old Nick Bood was stabbed to death in Zaandam in April 2017. A 17-year-old boy from Assendelft was sentenced to one year of juvenile detention and youth psychiatric treatment for Nick's death. Romy Nieuwburg ,14-years-old from Hoevelaken, was sexually assaulted and strangled to death by a 14-year-old classmate in June 2017. The boy was arrested two days after her body was found. He was sentenced to one year in juvenile detention and youth psychiatric treatment. And Savannah Dekker, 14-years-old from Bunschoten, disappeared in June 2017. Her body was found in a watery ditch in her hometown a few days later. A 17-year-old boy was sentenced to two years of juvenile detention and youth psychiatric treatment for her death.
Mariëlle Bruning, professor of juvenile law at the University of Leiden, told NOS that juvenile criminal law is primarily pedagogically structured on the principle that every child deserves a second chance - and that is a good thing. But she also thinks that courts should pay more attention to the victims and their families. "Perhaps we should take a good look at how the rights of victims in juvenile criminal cases can be sufficiently demonstrated", she said to the broadcaster.
Professor Peter van der Laan of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, who has been involved in youth care and juvenile justice for years, told NOS that he understands why the relatives of children who were killed by minors think the penalties are too low. "It is logical that many people say the punishments are on the low side. You hear such sounds regularly from relatives and politicians", he said to the broadcaster. Yet he is not in favor of harsher penalties. According to him, relatives' loss will not be alleviated by harsher penalties.