Call to better protect crime victims' privacy

Scales of justice and gavel on law book
Scales of justice and gavel on law bookPhoto: tomloel/DepositPhotos

The authorities must better adhere to rules around protecting the privacy of crime victims, according to Victim Support Netherlands. These rules are often not adhered to, resulting in victims' names and addresses ending up in files that can be seen by suspects. Victims should be made more aware about possibilities to block their data, Victim Support said to NOS. 

The organization called on the police to inform victims that it is sometimes possible to omit personal data from the report. Victims must be aware that they can give a postal address other than their home address when making a declaration. It must also be possible to remove address data from the file at a later date.

When it comes to sex crimes involving minors, the identity of the victim must not be disclosed in the court case, Victim Support advised. In special circumstances, the trial must happen behind closed doors. And only the conclusions of medical reports must be shared. 

Many of these rules are already in place, but often not adhered to. "Rules and laws are clear, the point is that we must comply with them. But for unclear reasons, that does not always happen," Victim Support chairman Rosa Jansen said to NOS. 

She understands that victim details often come out during the trial, which happens publicly according to the constitution. "We're not saying: 'just shut the door'.' That should only happen in special cases," Jansen said. She doesn't want to change that transparency, but thinks that judges can be more careful with personal details. 

A victim of a stabbing told NOS that their full name ended up in the file, even though the suspect lived in their neighborhood. "I am afraid of retaliation, because there will be a lawsuit. He will soon be at my door" The victim was not informed that they could use a postal address other than their home address in the declaration. "Medical data is also in the file. The counter party also receives it, will they handle it with care?"

A victim of a shooting told the broadcaster that they asked the police to omit their name and home address from the file, but this did not happen. "I asked the police to remove it, but they said it was too late," the victim said. The consequences: "I am called by the suspects and I am threatened."

In a response to Victim Support's calls and recommendations, the Council for the Judiciary said that personal data is sometimes necessary for evidence and a fair trial. The Council said that it takes the privacy of victims' seriously, but is also very dependent on the police and Public Prosecution Service (OM).

 The OM said that it and the police try to protect the victim as well as possible. The authorities are currently investigating how victims' data can better be protected, the OM said in a response. "That is a complicated issue."