Published On: Sat, Jun 22nd, 2024

Guilty without a sanction? You are still convicted of a crime, Supreme Court rules

THE HAGUE — Is someone convicted if a court finds a defendant guilty and punishable but does not impose a sanction? The Supreme Court considered this question “in the interest of the law” after the Common Court of Justice in Curacao ruled that in such circumstances a defendant does not become a convict. Now there is clarity: a conviction that does not contain a sanction (like imprisonment, community service or a fine) is a conviction for a crime, as described in Curacao’s national ordinance integrity candidate-ministers.

After the Court in First Instance and the Common Court of Justice arrived at opposing conclusions about this issue, Edwin Bleichrodt, a solicitor-general at the Supreme Court filed for cassation in the interest of the law. The court has now ruled that declarations of guilt that do not include sanctions are in fact convictions.

In 2021, Eduard Braam was nominated as a candidate for the post of Minister of Justice in Curacao. It soon became clear that Braam was not going to get through the screening because a court in Amsterdam had sentenced him on May 30, 2002, for having had sex with a 16-year old patient when he was working in the Dutch capital as a general practitioner. The court declared Braam guilty and punishable but it did not impose any sanction. Braam withdrew his candidacy and went to court in an attempt to clear his name.

After the Court in First Instance ruled against Braam, the Common Court of Justice came with an opposing decision on July 4, 2023, ruling that Braam had not been convicted in accordance with the description of “sentenced for a crime” in the ordinance integrity candidate ministers.

Because of the Supreme Court ruling, Braams’ future as a minister in Curacao is toast. The same is true for the (rejected) candidacy of Party for Progress ministerial candidate Raeyhon Peterson who was, on appeal, found guilty of a confrontation with a driver after a traffic accident in 2018, but the court did not impose any sanction.

When Peterson failed to get through the screening and therefore was found ineligible as Minister of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (VROMI) he asked Governor Baly in writing for an explanation. With the Supreme Court ruling this has now become a moot point.

The ordinance that regulates the integrity of ministers in Curacao states that someone who has been convicted for a crime cannot be nominated as a minister. Braam’s argument that there was no sanction and therefore no conviction falls short: the Supreme Court ruled that a declaration of guilt without imposing a penalty is a conviction.

Explaining its position, the court notes that the option to declare a defendant guilty without imposing a sanction was established because it was considered undesirable to force a judge to add a sanction to his conviction when he is of the opinion that without a sanction his ruling is as effective or even more effective. In this context the legislator has identified a declaration of guilt without a sanction as a conviction.

The Supreme Court ruling states that the main question is not whether a court has imposed a sanction. It is about the “judicial integrity” of a defendant and about the fact that a judge has established that someone is guilty of committing a crime.

“The judgment of the Common Court of Justice that a defendant is only convicted if the court imposes a sanction, is incorrect, according to the Supreme Court.

The ruling states that its judgment does not have any consequences for the parties involved and that the ruling of the Common Court of Justice stands.


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