OM drops first key witness ever after revelation from psychological report
For possibly the first time ever, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) dismissed its key witness in a criminal prosecution. This comes as Minister Dilan Yesilgöz of Justice and Security is seeking to expand the key witness scheme to counter organized crime, according to Follow the Money.
The key witness, Nidal S., was tripped up during cross examination, when the defense attorney in a murder case presented evidence that the witness was diagnosed with a personality disorder that allows him to lie uninhibited. The case, which was heard in court in March, provoked questions about the process for vetting key witnesses, Follow the Money reports.
Key witnesses who the prosecutors flip and get to agree to a deal can receive a 50 percent reduction in sentencing for their own crimes. They can also get other concessions, like the return of seized money. Minister Yesilgöz has proposed making it possible to fully waive a key witness's punishment, among other things.
In S.'s case, he received three instead of six years in prison, as well as 39,000 euros returned to him. This was in exchange for his testimony in two murder cases and one cold case.
However, a previous examination from the Pieter Baan Center revealed that S. had a personality disorder that led to "a tendency to tell untruths" and often used manipulative tactics. After this revelation, S. was interrogated for another case in which he was key witness. The OM concluded after this interrogation that "the reliability of the witness is fairly elusive," and decided to drop him in an unprecedented move.
"As far as I can see, this is the first time that a key witness has been withdrawn while the agreement has already been concluded and the trial has started," professor of criminal procedure law Jan Crijns told Follow the Money.
In November, Minister Yesilgöz will send plans to expand the key witness program to the Tweede Kamer –– a plan the OM also favors, according to Follow the Money. Yesilgöz hopes this will help fight organized crime and "unravel criminal networks more quickly."
Jan Struijs, chairman of the Dutch Police Association, suggested that an ethics committee for key witnesses be started. "The key witness has become an indispensable tool, but ethical dilemmas and a psychological assessment of the witnesses must be taken into account during the assessment process," Struijs told Follow the Money. "This will ultimately increase the reliability of the drug."