‘Tit for tat’: Belgium promises tougher punishments for violence against police

‘Tit for tat’: Belgium promises tougher punishments for violence against police
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne. Credit: Belga

Following an attack on police officers in Brussels, Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne announced that anyone who is now convicted of violence against the police will be punished effectively.

On Monday morning, five police officers were attacked with a car jack during a traffic check in the municipality of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, resulting in police unions again sounding the alarm on violence against officers.

“If the police ask for a ‘tit-for-tat policy’ and ask for punishments to be carried out, then we will do that,” Van Quickenborne said on Tuesday evening on VRT’s television programme ‘De Afspraak.’

He added that six weeks after the new government took office, a communication had already been sent to all public prosecutors in the country, obliging them to no longer dismiss such cases under any circumstances but to prosecute culprits effectively.

Van Quickenborne cited the case of a 20-year-old man who made headlines in Flanders for headbutting a police officer in Ghent on Tuesday. The man was called to summary proceedings and will appear in court on 14 October.

In theory, he faces up to one year in prison but in practice, sentences of fewer than three years are not carried out in Belgium. “He will not have to spend a day in jail,” Van Quickenborne lamented, adding that he understands the police unions in this respect.

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“Once a case is brought to court and a person is convicted, the sentence must also be carried out,” he said, stressing that “from 1 December, [the government] will enforce all sentences, including short prison sentences.”

“I cannot promise that a zero-tolerance policy will end violence against police in this country,” Van Quickenborne said.

“However, I can promise that zero-tolerance will punish people effectively,” he stressed, adding that the Justice Department plans to do this even while prisons are overcrowded.

Detention houses

To accommodate the potential influx of prisoners, the Government plans to open 15 detention houses during this term of office, with the first two still opening this year.

Van Quickenborne described detention houses: “Those convicted of such offences will be housed in a detention house and not in traditional prisons, where they are supervised from day one.”

“The intention is that those people are punished, but we must also ensure that perpetrators see the error of their ways and do not come out of prison any worse than when they went in,” he added.

In the meantime, the Brussels’ public prosecutor confirmed on Wednesday that the man who assaulted the five police officers in Molenbeek on Monday will serve no jail time, but will instead be placed under electronic surveillance with an ankle bracelet.

The man – identified as Karim K. – is being charged with assault and battery with work incapacity towards police officers, unarmed resistance and making threats.

Three of the police officers were taken to hospital with substantial injuries but were discharged after treatment; the two others were only slightly injured. However, all five policemen are considered temporarily unable to work.

“The investigation into the events is now continuing,” said the Brussels public prosecutor, adding that this will include analysing the images from surveillance cameras in the area.

Karim K. meanwhile will appear before the Brussels chambers within five days, where it will be decided whether or not to place him under house arrest.


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