Prosecutors faced with many challenges in 2022

Also in 2022, the Prosecutor’s Office of Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba OM BES was faced with many challenges, in­cluding the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences, in which the im­pact for society as a whole and for victims in particular are an important touchstone, said Chief Prosecu­tor Walter Kupers in the preface to the Prosecutor’s Office’s annual report. The financial statement for 2022 showed a windfall of US $197,545.

Kupers took up his job of chief prosecutor in October 2022, succeeding Acting Chief Prosecutor Guiliano Schoop. His first target is to return the Prosecution Service to full capacity and to reduce work pressure, he said.

Due to an increase in the number of cases and the in­crease in staff members, the building in which the Pros­ecutor’s Office was housed in Bonaire no longer ful­filled the requirements. The renovated building was reopened in May 2022. The Statia location was also renovated.

In total, the OM BES handled 906 cases last year. On Bonaire, the number of cases fell sharply, primarily due to the disappearance of fines in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The influx of cases on Sta­tia has returned to the level of 2018 with 111 crimes and violations against 113, five years ago. Most cases in Statia involved theft and mistreatment, as well as traffic violations.

Saba saw a declining num­ber of crimes and violations last year. One factor that played a role was the in­troduction of the new road traffic regulation. Resi­dents were informed of the new rules before controls were held and fines were issued. Last year, OM BES handled 39 cases on Saba, compared with 84 in 2021.

In 2022, 495 criminal cases were submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office, 344 of which were assessed and handled by the court. The declining trend in the number of crimes contin­ued, but on the other hand, crimes are more severe and take more time to be investigated and assessed by the investigative services.

The Prosecutor’s Office handled 484 (traffic) viola­tion cases in 2022, 260 of which were closed with a transaction. A traffic viola­tion is usually settled with a fine. In 2022, 602 fines were issued by police officers and members of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee KMar, for the total amount of US $121,422.

This is a decrease of 61% compared to 2021, the OM BES reported. This not only concerns traffic fines, but also fines imposed for over­staying with regard to the Admission and Expulsion Act BES.

The Prosecutor’s Office handled 62 juvenile cases last year, which is approxi­mately the average of the past five years. The Pros­ecutor’s Office said it re­mains attentive where youth crimes are concerned and will continue to draw atten­tion to its preventive policy to keep young people out of the juvenile justice system.

The Prosecutor’s Office said that last year it has ensured that the backlog from 2020 has been virtually eliminated. This backlog was caused by the COVID pandemic and understaffing at the Prosecutor’s Office in previous years.

In the 2022 annual plan it was stated that the OM BES would primarily focus on subversion, violence and aggression against public officials. Two detectives started a pilot in combat­ing so-called “undermining” financial/economic crimes. Also, two detectives of the Fiscal Information and In­vestigation Service FIOD in the Netherlands will be sta­tioned in Bonaire.

Violence and aggression, both physical and verbal, are common in the health­care sector. Especially staff in youth care and the Court of Guardianship have to deal with this together with other organisations in the care sector or the justice system. OM BES, together with Care and Youth Ca­ribbean Netherlands ZJCN and National Department Caribbean Netherlands have set up a procedure and instruction so that staff members know where they stand in the event of such behaviour, it was stated in the annual report.

One of the most prominent cases the Prosecutor’s Of­fice dealt with last year was the attempted manslaugh­ter of a woman on Saba on September 3, 2022, the OM BES stated. In this case, a man deliberately attempted to kill his ex-girlfriend. He entered the house and start­ed beating her with a cleav­er. The victim was seriously injured but survived.

In a previous incident, the suspect also stood trial for insulting several police officers while performing their duties. Because of the seriousness of the matter the suspect stood trial on January 18, 2022. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and payment of US $20,000 in damages.

The Daily Herald.

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