After the murder of a police officer, stricter measures against violence against police officers are introduced. A magistrate is appointed per public prosecutor’s office who supervises the flow of information.
There is an agreement between the police unions and Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD), who announced additional measures on Thursday: the zero tolerance against police brutality will be extended to acts of rebellion resulting in disability. The Public Prosecution Service had already made progress in these files, says a spokesman: in three out of four cases of recalcitrance resulting in incapacity for work, prosecution has already been initiated. ‘Now we are going one step further.’
The automatic increased sentence for violence against the police, as included in the draft of the new Penal Code, will come into effect early. In concrete terms, this means that if a crime is punishable by three to five years’ imprisonment, the same offenses against a police officer can result in up to ten years’ imprisonment. Torture and inhumane treatment of police officers will also carry heavier penalties. Such treatment includes facts that cause psychological distress, such as serious threats. Manslaughter of a member of the police force is considered an aggravated offense and equated with murder.
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impression of impunity
In addition, a magistrate is appointed at each public prosecutor’s office for all files of criminal offenses against police officers. This magistrate will be the point of contact for the police and must keep those involved better informed of the state of affairs. ‘After all, it was established that in some cases the Ministry of Justice does indeed take action, but that the information is insufficiently passed on to the police. Which creates the impression of impunity.’
In the press release, Van Quickenborne repeated what he had previously said to the Commission: ‘Anyone who targets police officers because of the position they perform is attacking society as a whole.’
This is not the end of the matter: there is not yet a legal framework for bodycams, a request from N-VA, among others. This is being worked on together with Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden (CD&V), it says. There is also no fast-track procedure, which means that offenses can be tried more quickly. The feeling of impunity will not disappear without prompt and firm action by the Justice Department.
‘Don’t crow victory too soon’
The police unions ACV Police, VSOA Police and NSPV are moderately satisfied. The question is, of course, how that will be made concrete. The unions will now wait and see how all this is formulated and how far that zero tolerance will really go. They first want to see what the stricter circulars for the public prosecutor’s office really look like.
‘We expect zero tolerance of rebelliousness and the public prosecutor’s office will look into that. They want to move in the direction that violence must be followed appropriately, but the door is still ajar for a dismissal in certain cases. That is difficult for us to understand’, explains Joery Dehaes of ACV Police. ‘We are in the right direction, but we don’t want to cry victory too soon and see how it is effectively worked out in the circulars.’