Justice Minister receives draft law on criminal procedures: More rights for crime victimsPOSTED: 10/29/13 2:55 PM
St. Maarten – Prof. mr. Hans de Doelder presented yesterday morning the first copy of the draft code of criminal procedures to Justice Minister Dennis Richardson at the Justice Ministry on Illidge Road. The draft law is a modernized version of the code that became law in 1997. “This is something everybody is comfortable with,” Solicitor-General Taco Stein said.
The draft is the result of consultations in a committee consisting of representatives from the prosecutor’s officer, the judiciary, the police and the Bar Association. Work on the draft began in 2007 – ten years after the introduction of the previous code. The code is a uniform law for St. Maarten, Curacao, Aruba and the BES-islands.
“This is a major accomplishment,” Minister Richardson said, adding that he wishes to establish the law as soon as possible. The draft will first go for approval to the Council of Ministers, and then to the Council of Advice after which possible adjustments will be made. “It is a uniform law, so if we make any changes, the other countries and the BES-islands also have to agree,” Richardson said.
mr. De Doelder, a professor in criminal law at the Erasmus University and Joost Verbaan, director of the Erasmus Center for Penal Studies (ECPS), who was also present at the early morning presentation did the major work on the draft.
De Doelder said that quite some changes follow from requirements established in the European Human Rights Convention. Once the code has become law, attorneys will get immediate access to suspects as soon as they are arrested. In practice, this already happens based on the so-called Salduz-arrest of the European Human Rights Court.
Under the new code, pre-trial detention terms will become shorter. Currently a suspect will be led before the Judge of Instruction to verify the legality of the arrest after the second day in detention, on the third day the court has then the option to prolong the detention to eight days. These terms will become three and three days, meaning that a suspect will see the Judge of Instruction only on the fourth day after his arrest.
After the (current) first eight days, the option to prolong the detention by two times eight days will be changed in a one-time prolongation of ten days (after the first two terms of three days). Suspects that are held longer in detention now face a prolongation of 60 days, and after that one time 30 days. These two terms will be merged into one prolongation of 90 days. The changes are based on European law.
“There will also be more requirements before someone can be taken into custody,” De Doelder said. The position of victims will improve: “The prosecution will get the right to seize assets from perpetrators to compensate victims and victims will get the right to address the court at trial.”
Another interesting change is that the code offers a higher level of protection to journalists who want to protect their sources.
The legislation for special investigation methods (the so-called BOB-law) will be adjusted to accommodate foreign law enforcement officers. This will make international cooperation easier. The code furthermore established a witness crown protection program.
“I am proud that this draft code is first presented here in St. Maarten,” Solicitor-General Taco Stein said. “This code is a trade-off between the different parties in the judicial chain. We also have to look at what can be done and what needs to be done. The result of the work in the committee is a balanced situation. I am glad to have this code to work with. We will be ready for the future.”
Mr. Stein said that the code for criminal procedures would not have a long lifespan, due to rapid changes in the judicial environment. The previous code was established in 1997, to replace a code that was put in place seventy years earlier. “Maybe we can do with this one for ten years,” he said.