Suspects of criminal offences in the Netherlands have a lower chance of being arrested unless it is absolutely necessary, according to NRC. These measures are taken in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Necessity would rely on the severity of the offence as well as whether it poses a ‘threat to the legal order.’ The judiciary hopes that these measures will limit risks of the virus spreading, particularly the spread of the virus in penitentiary institutions such as prisons. These measures are described in greater depth in a ‘national continuity plan’ that is circulated through the Public Prosecution Service.
Preparing for a potential lockdown
Additionally, forces are needed in case of a total lockdown. Although Prime Minister Rutte stated on Monday in his speech to the public that a lockdown is currently not in the books, things change each day, and indeed a lockdown may occur — in which case the police force needs to be prepared.
The Rule of Law will be under strain
Especially in times like these, states often resort to a declaration of national emergency (the US has already done so in response to the coronavirus outbreak), in which certain human rights standards can be set aside. The rationale? Protecting the public. However, it is important that these human rights limitations are kept to an absolute minimum.
The National Police notes that for the arrests that do take place, ‘safety on the street’ and an adherence to the ‘rule of law’ are fundamental principles that must be taken into account at all times. This means that an arbitrary exercise of power should not take place and that the law should still be followed.
However, the chairman of the Dutch Police Association, Jan Struijs notes that ‘the rule of law will be under great pressure from the coronavirus in the near future’ as choices will have to be made and vulnerable victims will become the main priority.
And in the courts…
Only the most pressing cases will be heard in court. Most other cases have been stalled. The Public Prosecution Service also iterates that priority will be given to cases concerning issues such as serious violence and those concerning vulnerable victims.
Furthermore, penalties were halted Monday, meaning that community service notices are postponed.
In prisons, leave is no longer possible for the time being
Leave is suspended for soon-to-be-released prisoners who would normally be allowed to return home for the weekend in order to re-adjust to society. This is to prevent people from going back and forth too much, which causes risk of infection. Furthermore, prisoners who are expected to serve short sentences will not be brought to prison for the time being.
As of now, no infections have been reported in prisons. In case this does happen, prisons are planning for containment scenarios to limit the spread of the virus.