Toon Kerkhoff and Gerrit Dijkstra discuss whether leaking conversations is a punishable offence in Dutch newspaper AD
On 13 October, Assistant Professors Public Administration Toon Kerkhoff and Gerrit Dijkstra discussed whether leaking secret government conversations is a punishable offence.
Recently, there has been more interest in the leaking of conversations as a result of the corruption inquiry into The Hague aldermen De Mos and Guernaoui,. But just how illegal is it and how can you prove it happened? It has proven to be difficult according to Gerrit Dijkstra. 'The crime has to be reported before it can be investigated by the National Department of Criminal Investigation. Depending on the results, charges may be filed. Usually it is difficult to prove. I'm also not sure whether this is classified as a criminal offence and if so, what type of criminal offence.'
Toon Kerkhoff mentions that is also depends on the identity of the person leaking the information. 'The word 'confidential' does not occur in the 'Gemeentewet' (municipal law). However, under the General Administrative Law Act an alderman is obliged to keep secret 'information he or she knows, or can reasonably be expected to assume, is confidential in nature'. Case law shows however that judges do not differentiate between confidential and secret information: those who disclose confidential information may well be convicted for violation of official secrecy.'
The question is whether secrecy can be imposed at all. Gerrit Dijkstra believes it to be a legally complex case. 'It seems obvious for the commissioner to have imposed that secrecy but it remains to be seen if he's allowed to do so when it comes to the chairman of a political party. In this case it isn't a matter of leaking information from a confidential committee charged with appointing a new mayor, but, if I understand it correctly, a matter of leaking information from an 'informal' gathering. Obviously, you should never make audio recordings without the consent of those involved. But that falls under a different type of legislation.'