Court sentences 11% harsher than 20 years ago

Gavel with lady justice in the background
Gavel with lady justice in the backgroundPhoto: SergPoznanskiy/DepositPhotos

The punishments judges in the Netherlands imposed last year were 11 percent higher than 20 years ago, according to a study by the Council for the Judiciary. Perpetrators of violent crimes and sex crimes in particular are punished more harshly, while drug crimes are punished less harshly.

According to the researchers, the penalties for violent crimes and sex crimes were on average 65 percent higher in 2018 than in 1998. Traffic offenses were also punished more harshly. But the sentences for drug crimes were on average 20 percent lower.

Last year judges were also more likely to impose community service, and imposed fewer fines than 20 years ago. Conditional sentences were also more common than in the past. 

The higher sentences for violent and sexual crimes show that judges respond to the "social call for stricter punishment, which is particularly apparent in the case of violent crimes and their victims," researcher Frank van Tulder said, according to

But it is not the case that punishments became harsher on average over the past two decades. "In many types of cases we see a decrease in one period and an increase in the average sentence in the other period", he noted. According to him, it is therefore impossible to say anything about the development of judges' actions in general.