Victims in Belgium informed of release of convicted person from prison
If victims so wish, the Belgian Ministry of Justice will automatically send them a letter when a convict is sent on leave or allowed to leave prison permanently. In case of serious offences, a house of justice will contact them.
This new approach goes into effect on Thursday 1 September. After the judge has pronounced a verdict with a prison sentence, the civil parties will receive a letter explaining their rights. This will also include a 'victim sheet', with which they can indicate how they wish to exercise those rights.
"The emotional impact of a court sentence is particularly great for many victims and next of kin. From now on, victims will be systematically informed of their rights during the execution of the verdict", says Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD).
Thus, from now on, victims will be informed by letter when the convict asks to be released under conditions, such as when he gets out of prison, with an ankle bracelet or when he is released permanently.
Victims and relatives of serious crimes will also be contacted spontaneously by the houses of justice about their rights. They will receive an automatic notification to this effect. These are intentional and unintentional acts that caused the death of a victim, including poisoning, torture and rape. Justice assistants will also contact victims after convictions for these types of 'attempted' crimes.
"This is a new, important step in a neglected core task of justice: putting the victim at the centre. A human approach, respect for the trauma, guidance in the legal procedure and up-to-date information on the offender's punishment are a basis for healing after a crime. It is not a service, it is a right," she concludes.
That is why the minister invested heavily in strengthening the victim reception services. Since 2020, the number of justice assistants has increased by 40 percent.
At the end of June, the Ministry of Justice already launched the JustConsult application on http://www.justonweb.be. Through this website, victims can consult their file digitally where and when they wish to do so. In addition, victims always have the option of calling on the victim reception service, which can prepare the inspection together with the victim so that they know what to expect. Such files often contain a great deal of sensitive information such as photos of the crime scene or autopsy reports.
© BELGA PHOTO ANTHONY DEHEZ