A court in Brussels has sent a case involving a double death during a police chase back to the prosecutor’s office demanding a review.
The case involves the death of two young people, Sabrina El Bakkali (20) and Ouassim Toumi (24) in May 2017. The two were riding a motorcycle when they were spotted by police on the Avenue Louise in Brussels, allegedly riding erratically.
Police gave chase and raised the alarm. A dog patrol van further up in the tunnel slowed down to block the road. One way or another, the motorcycle collided with the van.
Toumi died at the scene, and El Bakkali died later in hospital from her injuries.
The Brussels prosecutor’s office opened an investigation because of the involvement of police, and its investigation is now closed, and the case was sent to a committal court to be dealt with.
The problem is, however, that the prosecutor assigned no blame to anyone involved in the accident, either police or the deceased. Despite that, the prosecutor’s office had asked the court to declare the police officers involved exempt from prosecution.
As the court has now pointed out, it does not have the power to strike down an accusation that was never yet made. As long as the prosecutor remains non-committal, the court can do no more than echo that position, and suspend judgement.
To clear the blockage, the prosecutor’s office will now have to present its evidence anew, this time asking for the police officers involved to be committed for trial. The court will then have the option to accept or deny the motion.
For the families of the victims, meanwhile, a trial is the only acceptable option.
“The court has not pronounced a waiver of prosecution today,” said lawyer Joke Callewaert, representing one of the families.
“The judge made it clear in her motivation that a police chase is equivalent to the use of force by the police and that this was disproportionate in this case.”