Will assassins be punished harder?

Sanne Struijk

In the murder case of Peter R. de Vries, the public prosecutor requested a lifelong prison sentence against the suspects. The public prosecutor wants to send a message and fight organised crime harder. Eventually, the judge decides whether the suspects will be convicted and if they get a lifelong prison sentence or a limited prison time. Sanne Struijk, Professor of Penal Law at Erasmus School of Law, explains in Trouw what variables can influence the degree of punishment.

The legislating power can influence the severity of punishment. Parliament can do this by increasing the legal maximum penalty for a crime or by including aggravating circumstances like organised crime or committing an assassination in the legislation. Struijk notes that the judicial power also influences the matter: “the initiative can also be from the court. When judges decide, for example, that organised crime can be an aggravating circumstance, this could feed through into their verdicts. Or through EU legislation, that is how a terrorist objective ended up in our law.”

According to the Professor of Penal Law at the Erasmus University, the development that punishments get more severe or for which type of murder a lifelong sentence is given is a social development: “what punishment suits a certain type of crime? That is a social question. The answer is mainly dependent on the time we live in. Criminal Law is part of society and is shaped by society. Changes in societal opinion could lead to severer or lower punishments.”

Although imposing more severe punishments is a deterrent, it is no magical solution, explains Struijk: “deterrence does not reduce crime. We see this in the United States. However, criminal law is not just about deterrence but is also mainly focused on confirming standards. For example, the standard is that you should not kill someone. If you do this anyway, you will be met with severe punishment.”

The verdict in the murder case of Peter R. de Vries is expected on 14 July 2022.

More information

Click here for the entire article by Trouw.

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