Federal Minister for Justice, Koen Geens (CD&V), faces criticism from opposition parties as well as from within the government for the fact that Julie Van Espen’s murderer was not in prison after his previous rape convictions. According to Groen, too much money has been saved on a crucial department, and sexual offenders must be followed-up on more. Vlaams Belang goes one step further and wants Geens to resign.
Groen wants to “conduct the debate serenely, but also ask the right questions and learn from this,” the party said after the murder.
“The number of sexual crimes in Belgium is higher than average and there are very few convictions,” said justice specialist Stefaan Van Hecke and member of Groen to Het Laatste Nieuws. He complains that waiting times are increasing due to savings, but he also points to “a known mentality problem and a lack of follow-up of sexual offenders”.
This morning, press magistrate Jo Daenen denounced the savings at the Ministry of Justice. “Due to savings and staff shortages, a fewer number of judges have to handle the same number of appeals. The lead time has therefore become longer,” Daenen said on Radio 1.
Groen calls for a different mentality in addition to more resources. “The problem of sexual crimes is not taken seriously enough,” Van Hecke said. “In the majority of cases no report is made and the perpetrator remains unpunished. That is why the threshold for reporting has to be lowered and carefully followed-up by the police. The prosecution of rape has to become a priority.”
Groen argues for a cross-party approach, also to follow up on sex offenders much longer and more intensively. “Progress can only be made quickly by working together. The next minister for Justice will have to do better. We must do everything we can to ensure that this does not happen again,” concluded Van Hecke.
Vlaams Belang is calling for the resignation of minister Geens, while Filip Dewinter, member of the Chamber of Representatives of Belgium, argues plainly for the reintroduction of the death penalty.