St. Maarten Prosecutor’s Office dropped record number of cases in 2009

POSTED: 12/2/10 12:55 PM

St. Maarten – The Public Prosecutor’s Office in St. Maarten dismissed a record 36.9 percent of the criminal cases it registered last year. Out of 1,079 cases, the office dropped 397, 66 more than it dismissed in 2008. In 2007 the number of dropped cases was just 190, which represented 23.6 percent of all registered cases.
The annual report of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Netherlands Antilles explains that the sharp increase in dropped cases is partly caused by a huge effort in the last quarter of 2009 to solve a number of murder cases.
Out of the 397 dismissed cases, 134 are conditional. This means that the suspects avoided prosecution by paying a fine, doing community service or paying damages to their victims.
A point of concern is that out of the remaining 253 dropped cases, 138 could not be prosecuted for technical reasons. Sometimes the case file did not contain enough evidence, or that alleged crime was not punishable, or somebody was incorrectly registered as a suspect.
“The high number of dismissals indicates a shortage of quantitative and qualitative capacity at the police force,” the report states.
Of the remaining crimes, 416 went to court. A comparison with the figure for 2008 is not possible because the data from that year are unreliable. The number of cases that went to court is on a par with 2007.
The report notes that the percentage of crimes committed by young people decreased compared to 2008, but the crimes they do commit are becoming more serious. “Minors commit more often serious robberies and thefts.”
Dealing with young criminals is a problem, the report notes, because the House of Detention does not have a separate youth section. “Youngsters therefore end up being detained together with adult criminals. That is cause for concern from the perspective of special treatment and the prevention of recidivism.”
The report states that expanding the Pointe Blanche prison is “a bitter necessity.”
“The capacity is insufficient to make the administering of justice effective in St. Maarten. The problem becomes bigger every day, because the length of prison sentences and the average stay in prison increases due to the nature and the seriousness of the crimes.
Statistics in the report show that the bulk of all criminals fall in the age group 19-44 (71.7 percent). Criminals in the 15-18 years of age category represent 12.9 percent of the total, down from 15.4 percent in 2008. Ten sentenced suspects were younger than 15 (1.2 percent), and 14 were older than 61 (1.6 percent). The rest (12.6 percent) is aged between 45 and 60.

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