The 20-year-old driver who killed De Standard journalist, Stephanie Verbraekel, has been sentenced to 250 hours of community service, a decision Verbaekel’s parents call a “green light for all killers”, according to Belgian media.
Initially, Hilde and Patrick Verbraekal had stated that the punishment for the driver who killed their daughter did not matter to them as they “wouldn’t get Stephanie back anyway”. However, as the sentence – 250 hours of community service and the loss of his driving licence for a minimum for four years – was revealed, the parents have changed their stance.
“Now that [the verdict] is here, we feel that we care. This verdict is a knife in the back for anyone who fights for more road safety,” said Patrick.
Despite the public prosecutor demanding an 18 month prison sentence for the driver, the judge refuted the demands. Instead the driver must conduct his six weeks of community service at an organisation that works for road-accident victims. Additionally, he must retake his driving tests in four years time to regain his licence.
“He has to work for six weeks. Six weeks. That’s nothing. He didn’t even get a fine,” said Verbraekel’s parents. “This is the green light for all killers. “Give it a go, you won’t get a heavy punishment anyway”, that is the signal it sends out.”
Stephanie, a journalist for De Standaard, was 28 years old when she was hit by a car and killed whilst crossing Chaussée de Haecht in Schaerbeek, in November 2017. The driver was driving at 90 kilometres per hour, in a 50 km/h zone.
The Brussels Times
UPDATE: The Brussels prosecutor’s office has announced it will appeal the sentence, spokesperson Denis Goeman said.