Published On: Sat, Sep 9th, 2023

Lacking new Code of Criminal Procedures is worrisome, Chief Prosecutor Buist says

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PHILIPSBURG — It is worrisome that after five years there still is no new Code of Criminal Procedure, Chief Prosecutor Hieke Buist said during the installation of Judge Gerben Drenth.

She also addressed domestic violence and school-related violence.

“Only Aruba signed the Code and will have it implemented in 2024. On St. Maarten it is still at the parliament to be reviewed and handled.”

Buist pointed out that the new Code “will give civilians more strength against the governmental body responsible for investigation and prosecution. “It is not implemented and no one knows when it will be.”

The Chief Prosecutor said that the new code will give civilians, suspects and victims more rights. Victims of a crime will be able to claim more damages, where the current maximum stands at 50,000 guilders ($27,933). “The victim will also have the right to an interpreter and the right to speak during the court session.”

The Prosecutor’s Office therefore “urges parliament to make haste with the handling of the new Code of Criminal Procedures and to play its role in making St. Maarten safer.”

Buist also addressed a darker topic: “What we see behind some doors can often be terrifying. We see relational and domestic violence, sexual abuse and assault. There are of course loving and caring families but what we see at the prosecutor’s office is the bad and sad side of society.”

In some cases, she added, children are second-line victims: they see how their mother is abused, assaulted and molested. “That child is marked for life and, by virtue of circumstances, is likely to become a perpetrator as well.”

Another issue is school violence. “Each new school year we see school-related fights with children who are bullies and children with weapons such as knives. “To tackle these fights we must stand together as a community and not solely rely on the justice system,” Buist said. “We all have our part to play to keep our children safe.”

She suggested taking a closer look at the design of school neighborhoods, the school buses and extracurricular and after-school activities – and at the cost and accessibility of all this.

Above all, “we have to talk with the children,” Buist said. “Within the justice system we should research what is working and what kind of actions and sentences are necessary. Sometimes there is no other way than to send a child to prison, but often we can and should avoid that.”

The chief prosecutor emphasized that the safety of children begins at home and continues in school. “This is the responsibility of the whole community and of all ministries. In the words of the late Nelson Mandela: “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which its treats its children.”


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