Towards a New Code of Criminal Procedure
Recently the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice announced that a new Code of Criminal Procedure is forthcoming. But what is meant by new in this respect? And is new legislation really necessary?
In 2012 the Dutch Court of Audit (Algemene Rekenkamer) criticised the Dutch administration of criminal justice. The process operated very slowly, regularly criminal cases disappeared unaccountably and sometimes sentences were not executed at all. As a result the effectiveness of the system as a whole was being questioned by the Court of Audit. This heavy criticism could not be ignored by those accountable for the Dutch criminal justice system. That is why the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice came up with the so-called VPS programme (Versterking Prestaties Strafrechtketen), a programme intended to raise the output of the criminal justice system. One of the most important parts of this programme is the so-called ZSM project which is best translated as the ASAP project. In this project the criminal justice actors try to diminish the period of time in which criminal cases are dealt with. Furthermore the VPS programme tries to strengthen the process of executing sentences by shifting the responsibility for the execution of sentences from the Public Prosecution Service to the Ministry of Security and Justice.
A new code
Last year the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice suggested that on top of these measures it would be necessary to restructure the Code of Criminal procedure. In first instance the main goals of this legislative operation seem to be streamlining, improving effectiveness and modernising the present regulation of criminal procedure. A first glance at the suggested measures, however, reveals a total reconstruction of the Code of Criminal Procedure. From the investigation stage to the execution of sentences important changes are at least considered. One can wonder if the current problems in the administration of criminal justice, as described by the Court of Audit, justify such fundamental and far-reaching measures. Maybe it is more a matter of improving the organisation within and between criminal justice actors than a matter of legislation. From a scholarly perspective, the need for a total reconstruction of the present Code of Criminal Procedure has not been underpinned yet. This said, criminal justice scholars are looking forward to the exact plans and the grounds on which they rest.