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Pauline Schuyt: 'Life imprisonment demand ineffective if goal is deterrence'

The number of life sentences in the Netherlands is rising sharply. This is a clear response to the serious drugs violence and brutal attacks on our rule of law. However, criminal justice experts do not believe that this will deter future offenders from carrying out liquidations.

Pauline Schuyt

In response to recent shocking murders, such as those of lawyer Derk Wiersum and crime journalist Peter R. de Vries, the Public Prosecution Service in the Netherlands (OM) has recently started demanding life sentences. ‘With these demands, the OM is saying to the surviving relatives and society: this is a very serious crime’, says Pauline Schuyt, Professor of Penal Law and Sentencing, in Dutch current affairs programme EenVandaag. ‘For that reason, the OM demands the heaviest possible punishment that can be imposed in these cases. And of course, it’s also a warning to criminal organisations.’

‘With life sentences for liquidations and attacks on our rule of law, the OM hopes above all to deter future contract killers. However, this is an ineffective measure if the goal is purely deterrence’, Schuyt believes. ‘Because if you look at how these kinds of suspects behave during their criminal trial, they show no signs of being affected by the threat of a severe punishment.'

Schuyt emphasises, however, that a life sentence can still be the right punishment. ‘Because even if these offenders don’t respond to the threat of this punishment, it can still be an appropriate sentence to protect society so that they can no longer commit crimes’.

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