Motion to arrest convicts at risk of reoffending brought to a vote
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Motion to arrest convicts at risk of reoffending brought to a vote

Judges can currently order the immediate arrest of convicts who are deemed a flight risk. Credit: Belga

A motion which would enable judges to issue an immediate arrest warrant against a convicted person thought to be at risk of recidivism was approved by lawmakers on Wednesday.

Members of the Chamber’s Justice Commission approved the motion, tabled by the Nieuw Vlaamse Alliantie’s (N-VA) Sophie De Wit, in near unanimity, with only two MPs abstaining.

The motion would add to the conditions under which a judge can order the immediate arrest of a person who has been convicted of a crime but who is not the subject of pre-trial detention.

Under current regulations, a judge can only issue an immediate arrest warrant for convicts who are thought to be a flight risk.

The motion received cross-party support from both Flemish and Francophone parties, including Groen, sp.a, CD&V, Vlaams Belang and the liberal Mouvement Reformateur and Open Vld.

A representative of the Parti Socialiste abstained after failing to gather sufficient backing for an amendment to the motion, which aimed to make a convict’s immediate arrest dependent on whether doing so was deemed “absolutely necessary for public safety.”

A member of the labour PTB party also abstained from voting on the motion, arguing that it did not address the root causes of the problem, which according to the lawmaker stem from a lack of appropriate resources in the justice sector.

The motion was put forward as a legislative response to the murder of 23-year-old Julie Van Espen by a repeat sexual offender in the spring.

The case prompted outrage and calls for change among politicians and members of the public after it became known that the 39-year-old man who confessed to killing Van Espen after attempting to rape her had already been twice convicted of sexual assault, but freed after seeing his trial “indefinitely postponed.”

Following its approval by the parliamentary commission, the motion must now be voted on during an upcoming plenary session in the Chamber.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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