Prof. Sanne Struijk on the potential increase of the maximum penalty for manslaughter

Last week, Minister Grapperhaus and Minister Dekker announced on behalf of the government that they intend to increase the maximum sentence for manslaughter from 15 to 25 years. Prof. Sanne Struijk, associate professor of criminal law at Erasmus School of Law and also professor by special appointment of penology and penitentiary law at the University of Groningen, responded to this proposal to the NOS.

Prof. Struijk states in the news article that not only the necessity or political desirability of this change to the maximum penalty for manslaughter should be considered, but that the impact of such a change on the rest of the penal system should also be considered. She argues that the introduction of this change in the future could open the door to a plea that the maximum penalty for murder should also be increased because the penalty gap between murder and manslaughter would then be too small.

Prof. Struijk also points to the fact that a law will enter into force in May 2021, with consequences for the duration that someone is actually detained. As a result of that law, the conditional release of a prisoner will only take place no later than two years before the end of the prison sentence imposed, instead of the present moment after two-thirds of the sentence: a substantial difference, especially for the long-sentenced. This must also be taken into account in the event of any change to the maximum penalty for manslaughter.

In response to the substantiation of the ministers Grapperhaus and Dekker that the current maximum sentence for manslaughter does not do justice to the seriousness of the offence, Prof. Struijk also indicates that for relatives and victims it is not only about retaliation and redress. In addition, relatives and victims have very different views on this. Some victims no longer want anything to do with the case or especially require protection when the convicted person is released, says Prof. Struijk.