Belgium aims to tackle sexual violence with video interrogations

Belgium aims to tackle sexual violence with video interrogations
Credit: Jael Vallee/ Unsplash

The federal government is looking to tackle sexual violence and increase convictions connected to this crime by relying more heavily on video interrogation.

Alongside working on harsher punishments for rape and child abuse, the government is looking to increase the number of sexual violence convictions and is looking to do so by using visually recording the interrogation of minors and adult vulnerable people.

"Police and justice fight sexual violence on all fronts. We do this by ensuring more reports, stricter sentences and more convictions. The video interrogation is an important tool to collect more evidence and therefore we will use it more and more," said Vincent Van Quickenborne, Minister of Justice.

Sexual abuse and violence is an issue that affects many young girls and vulnerable adults in Belgium every year, however, few cases result in effective conviction of the perpetrator. The issue of gathering usable proof plays a big role in this, as it is often the victim's word against the suspect's.

Purpose of video interrogation

There are already around 100 video interview rooms and 723 police officers trained to conduct such interviews in Belgium, as the technique is already compulsory for underage victims of sexual offences.

However, it will now also be used for adult victims or witnesses who are vulnerable due to the physical or psychological impact of the facts or because of the personality, maturity level, psychological balance or age of the person involved, as well as in Centres for the Treatment of Sexual Violence (CPVS) across Belgium.

Once the interrogation is recorded, an expert psychologist can study it afterwards and produce a report based on their findings, which will become an important piece of evidence for a judge.

Video evidence of interrogations is worth more than a written interrogation, while it is also known that "suspects who are confronted with the images of a video interrogation are more likely to make a confession," a press release stated.

The technique is also beneficial when it comes to protecting the victim, as it means the victim does not have to repeat the same story over and over again to different authorities, in turn avoiding reliving the trauma too often.

"The victim can always fall back on an initial interview that was recorded, meaning we get a faithful reproduction of a first interrogation and that is important for the establishment of the facts."

Specially trained inspectors, who learn specific techniques for interviewing very young children to vulnerable adults, will conduct the interrogations when they are being filmed.

"Victims need to know that everything happens in a safe cocoon, far away from the sterile interrogation rooms and by specialised police officers who do everything in their power to prevent the victim from being traumatised and possibly secondary victimisation," Patrice De Mets, chief of police Geraardsbergen/Lierde, said.

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