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Jan Crijns in the media about report on security and key witnesses

On 1 March 2023, the Dutch Safety Board (Onderzoeksraad Voor De Veiligheid, OVV) published its report on the protection provided by the Dutch security services and lessons learned from three cases. The OVV was highly critical of the use of key witnesses and the protection offered to them. Jan Crijns, Professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, was asked to comment on the report in the Dutch media.

Jan Crijns

Reason for investigation

When the Prosecution Service (OM) makes use of a key witness, that person’s sentence is reduced in exchange for their incriminating statements. In 2018, the OM announced that it would use Nabil B. as a key witness in the criminal proceedings now known as the Marengo trial. Following the announcement, a series of murders were committed on respectively Nabil B’s brother (Reduan B.), lawyer (Derk Wiersum), and confidential advisor (Peter R. de Vries). These liquidations prompted the OVV to start an investigation. According to the OVV, ‘these murders could be committed because of shortcomings in how judiciary and police exchanged information’, Crijns said in Dutch newspaper Trouw. Crijns said that the OM could still use key witnesses, but 'the OVV report gives reason to do so with extra caution'.

Important investigative tool

Crijns still believes that the use of key witnesses can be an important investigative tool. Speaking on the Dutch eight o'clock news he said: ‘although there are shortcomings, the use of key witnesses is an important means for brining serious criminals to justice’, since ‘certain upper echelons of criminal organisations have shielded themselves to such an extent that it’s not easy to get information using wiretaps or traditional investigation methods’.

Plans of Justice Minister

In November 2022, the Dutch Justice Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, announced that more use would be made of key witnesses. Not only serious criminals high up in an organisation, but also persons who play a more supportive role would be considered. When asked what he thought of the minister’s plans, Jan Crijns said to the NOS: ‘That’s possible, but only when it goes hand in hand with better protection’. He does not expect that the scheme will be used a lot because of the ‘drawbacks that go with it’ such as ‘the security risk’. According to him, the report underlines that ‘if the life of the key witness, or that of their relatives is at risk, then no reduction in sentence will compensate for that’.

Find out more?

Read the full article in Trouw.

Watch the news item on the Acht Uur Journaal.

Visit the research page of the programme Crijns contributes to: ‘Criminal Justice: Legitimacy, Accountability and Effectivity’.

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