On Friday, 10 June 2022, a group of farmers visited the Dutch minister of Nature and Nitrogen, Christianne van der Wal, at her private home to protest against the policy on nitrogen pollution. According to the minister, her kids were shaking inside the house, and the mood turned threatening at some point. A lot of politicians and farming organisations condemned the protest action. Although the minister probably experienced this action as intimidating, it was not illegal, argues Joost Nan, Professor of Criminal Procedural Law at Erasmus School of Law, to RTL Nieuws.
These kinds of actions can not always be considered a criminal offense, explains Nan: “intimidation is no legal term within our criminal legal system, it is mainly an umbrella term for harassing someone, like sexual harassment. You could, for example, stand in front of someone and show off your muscles; that can be intimidating, but it is not illegal.” Although this protest is considered undesirable by many, a group at someone’s front door does not commit an offence by just standing there.
The minister called the mood threatening, but the Professor of Criminal (Procedural) Law did not consider this to be the criminal offence ‘threatening’: “threatening is inducing a ‘considerable fear’ for someone that they could, for example, be assaulted or worse. That means that you induce fear in someone that you might do something serious to them. In this case, I do not think this is what happened.”
The farmers should not continue doing these things, warns Nan: “if they repeatedly do this, it turns into harassment or stalking, and that is considered to be a criminal offense. They should not destroy things either because that would be vandalism. If they hit someone or something, that would be assault.”