Sharon (26) from Spijkenisse threw a piece of flower pot at police buses during the Rotterdam riots. And now, five days later, she has been taken by van from the penitentiary to the Rotterdam court, less than three kilometers from the crime scene, the Coolsingel. Her brown hair in a bun, black sweater and skinny jeans. A room full of journalists is waiting for her. “Try to worry about it as little as possible,” says the judge.
After riots the judge, for some already after a few days. On Saturday morning, just a few hours after things had calmed down in Rotterdam, outgoing minister Grapperhaus (Justice and Security, CDA) said that rioters would be dealt with by means of summary justice – suspects will be tried within 17 days of their arrest. “We will recover every cent of damage from them,” he said. “She will learn that.”
And so two files were ready within a few days; the Public Prosecution Service worked through a weekend. Sharon’s, who is training to be a truck driver. And from the Delft freelance welder Terrence (29), who stumbles into the courtroom an hour later. After his arrest, he walks badly. He also threw stones.
Simple to investigate
According to the Public Prosecution Service, they were eligible for summary judgment because their cases were easy to investigate: they are on camera, there were witnesses, and there is no need to calculate complicated compensation claims from victims. They have both been in trouble with the law before. In summary proceedings, the single chamber hears the case in approximately one hour, and renders a decision immediately.
“An immediate execution, in front of the stage,” says Utrecht researcher and associate professor of criminal law Joep Lindeman. He has been researching summary justice for years. Many cases are too complex for that, he says. “The cases that the minister has in mind, of instigators and people who have caused a lot of damage, are not included at all.”
In his latest survey, a review, respondents called summary justice a “political vehicle.” “Political pressure is hard to prove,” he says, but “in any case, politics goes really hard to show that she believes that rioters should be dealt with harshly.” Even if that ‘promise is often difficult to keep’ – if only because summary proceedings can only handle simpler cases. “The paradox is that the judge or the Public Prosecution Service will then be blamed.”
No mouth caps or balaclavas
Sharon and Terrence were not wearing hoodies or face masks or balaclavas. Sharon “was very clearly recognizable, she almost looks into the camera,” says the prosecutor. She could be seen raising her middle finger and throwing a bicycle in the air at the ‘Koopgoot’. Why? “I got carried away.” She says she did not even intend to riot, although she is against the corona measures. “It is made difficult for us.” The judge, sternly: “Can you set the place on fire then?”
“The citizen whose case is on top of the pile is unlucky,” says Lindeman. Those who “went along in the speedy justice story” after the curfew riots in January were punished more severely. The Public Prosecution Service then said “to use maximum prison sentences”, while community service is normally demanded in the case of open violence, especially against first offenders. New “instructions” had been issued, the leadership of the Public Prosecution Service said at the time, “with increased penalties due to aggravating circumstances”. While the cases that were delayed due to additional investigations, Lindeman says, were handled differently – more leniently. “After a while it was thought: who are we actually sitting here? Suckers, who are easily recognizable in images.” And: the moment had passed. “The genie was no longer out of the bottle.” There you see, he says that summary justice can have “an inflating effect”. “Just to give a signal at that moment.”
“It is of great importance,” says the public prosecutor, “that tough action is taken against this.” And, as she later says to Terrence: “We have to put a stop to such an outburst of violence. To make sure this is prevented.”
There is little evidence for whether expedited justice after the riots has a preventive effect, Lindeman says. Precisely because it concerns impulses. “Do you think that rebellious youths in the heat of battle think they’re going to go to jail if they throw a rock?” And what about the interests of society? “It has also not been demonstrated that society only finds the penal system credible if you convict people within three days. Yet for ten years now, ‘tick-to-the-bone’ has been ‘a kind of creed. If you say it often enough, it becomes true.”
Sharon gets five months in prison, two of which are conditional. She has to go back to the cell immediately. “That is also due to the risk of repetition that I see,” says the judge. Sharon also has to pay a thousand euros for damage to a police van. “Community service,” the judge told Terence an hour later, “is an insult to people who have tried to provide aid, have been thwarted and have gone there at the risk of their own lives.” He gets six months, two of which are conditional – also because he already has more violent offenses on his criminal record. And that Terrence sustained a back injury during his arrest, “is something you owe to yourself,” says the judge.
Also read:This article about quick justice after the curfew riots
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