“Crime victims short-changed by sentence reduction-policy”

POSTED: 03/25/11 12:13 PM

St. Maarten – Crime victims feel that they are short-changed by policy that entitles suspects to sentence reductions for remaining detained too long in a police cell, public prosecutor Mr. M. Overmeer said yesterday. “We should not look from a Dutch perspective at the situation in the police cells. The living conditions in St. Maarten are less favorable than they are in the Netherlands. It should not be so that suspects experience better conditions in detention than they have at home. Already now we see that suspects in Saba and Statia do not mind at all being locked up because in the cells they have at least a toilet with a door.”

Overmeer acknowledged that when detainees spend too long in a police cell, their rights are violated. “But they also violated the rights of their victims. With these sentence reductions, citizens see how suspects are back on the streets again within the shortest period of time.”

The prosecutor said that the sentence reduction – one month for every week a detainee spends longer than ten days in a police cell – is meant to send a signal to the government. “Because of the government’s financial problems it is not possible to build more cells just like that. But we should not attempt to solve these problems at the expense of the victims.”

Overmeer made her remarks during the trial of Jeannot Sanon and Anderson Hassell – two men who burgled the Sun Color building on January 17. Sanon spent 44 days in a police cell; Hassell 56. (See related story on page 3).

Defense attorney Mr. G. Hatzmann disagreed with the prosecutor. “This is a matter of civilization,” he said. “I have seen detainees with bite wounds from rats. That is not acceptable.”

Judge Mr. M. Keppels looked at both sides of the issue, but in the end she sided with Hatzmann. “I understand very well that citizens feel short-changed by these sentence reductions. But it is the task of the government to provide sufficient cell capacity at the prison and at the moment St. Maarten is unable to do that. This is a social problem, but it is not okay to put it on the plate of individual suspects. The policy will remain in place, though I understand that this is difficult to accept for citizens.”


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