Criminal cases could be handled on nights, weekends to catch up on court delays: Prosecutors
Criminal cases backlogged by the Covid-19 crisis may be brought to trial on evenings and weekends, Gerrit van der Burg told television show Op1 on Friday. To make up for the pileup, which total between 5,000 and 6,000 items per week, Van der Burg believes that the Public Prosecution Service (OM) ought to also consider extending its working hours into the evenings and the weekends.
Van der Burg is the head of the attorneys-general branch of the OM. He says the cases that remain range from petty crimes, such as vandalism, to more serious crimes, like physical assault. Van der Burg hopes that all of these cases can be handled, but says that he cannot make any promises to this end.
"We are committed to ensuring that nobody escapes justice," Van der Burg says. "But it is not easy."
Lawyers and representatives of victims last week called for more criminal cases to continue. Van der Burg emphasizes that, while all possibilities are on the cards, extending trials into into the evenings and the weekends "should be possible".
"I feel very responsible for the health of the people," he adds.
Even before the public health crisis took shape, the OM said its own capacity problems would likely force delays in nearly 23 thousand cases, partly because of complex trials related to the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, and the criminal underworld assassinations probe known as the Marengo Process. Then in mid-March the OM announced that it would have more trouble handling cases due to the disruption cause by the coronavirus pandemic.
"In the near future, the Public Prosecution Service will be concentrating on those tasks that must at least be carried out," the OM said. "Where possible, the other regular activities also continue."
"This is about postponement, not about cancellation," they add.