Published On: Sun, Sep 23rd, 2018

Special Report: Public Prosecutor’s Office shares views on ‘Statute of Limitations’

Collage Chief Public Prosecutor accepting petition from Elton Jones

~ Public Prosecutor’s Office seeking to implement various instruments such as JASAP, Justice As Soon As Possible ~

PHILIPSBURG — On the morning of Wednesday, August 29th, 2018, Chief Prosecutor, Jeroen Steenbrink, received a copy of a petition from activist, Elton Jones, together with former Minister of Education Rhoda Arrindell and former Member of Parliament, Sylvia Meyers-Olivacce.

Outside the Public Prosecutor’s Office at the Emmaplein in Philipsburg that morning, protesters were holding a ‘not so’ silent march condemning what they called persecution of local politicians by the Dutch government and the local judiciary.

The petition, handed over to the Chief Prosecutor that day, called for a number of issues to be addressed by the Government, Parliament and the relevant Justice authorities, including the review and modernization of the Constitution to, among other things, “[set] a time frame by which a case must be brought to trial (in the interest of justice and according to universal norms).

The petition specifically mentions “Concrete examples of … undue supervision and interference … strong indications of alleged arbitrariness, bias, and/or collusion displayed by/between certain elements within and outside of the Office of the Public Prosecutor. This has led to a specific, selective group of public officials being questioned and/or persecuted to the point of harassment, without receiving a clear indication of the course of justice to which they will be subjected in a timely manner.” Basically, this part of the petition refers to the time limit of criminal cases under investigation by the Public Prosecutor.

These points seem to be legitimate when one looks at how long certain prosecution cases have lasted. Certainly against politicians and certain public figures. Six, eight, sometimes ten years. The question arises whether it is humane for someone to have the ‘Sword of Damocles‘ hanging over their head for such a long time? Can it legally last so long? Is there no time limit attached to this process?

During his handing-over speech to the Chief Prosecutor, Elton Jones, referred to the ‘statute of limitations‘ as an important element in this context. A statute of limitations is a law which forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a specified number of years ago. The general purpose of statutes of limitation is to make sure convictions occur only upon evidence (physical or eyewitness) that has not deteriorated with time. This definition is based on that found on Findlaw.com.

For an article about this essential point, StMaartenNews.com posed the following questions to the Chief Prosecutor:

– Is it normal to keep someone for so long in suspense about the outcome of a case under investigation?
– Can it legally last so long?
– Is there a time limit for prosecuting suspects?
– Is this regulated by law?
– What is the position of the Public Prosecutor’s Office on this matter?
– Is there a policy for this?
– How does the situation in St. Maarten compare to the Netherlands with regards to the length of time that someone is prosecuted?

Through the office of the spokesperson for the Public Prosecutor StMaartenNews.com has received extensive answers to these questions. StMaartenNews.com plans to publish these answers in a 7-parts series via its daily email newsletter. If you do not already receive this email newsletter, please subscribe now online at https://stmaartennews.com/registration. Only after the 7-parts series have been completed will the complete report be published online on our website here at www.stmaartennews.com.

One of the most interesting revelations provided in the answers from the Public Prosecutor’s Office is its goal to implement the JASAP-policy, which stands for “Justice As Soon As Possible”.

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Related reports:
Photo reportage Silent March
Silent march leaders hand over petition to Dutch Rep in Philipsburg

Other relevant articles:
Systematic corruption” by Hilbert Haar
Integrity” by Hilbert Haar