Thousands of criminal case files will be scanned and digitised this summer by a group of 134 student workers hired by the Ministry of Justice, who were welcomed by Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne on 17 August during a visit to a court office in Kortrijk, Flanders.
Until recently, consulting files relating to criminal cases was only possible through the court registry, which are infamously bureaucratic and charge to receive paper copies of documents. In a bid to end this archaic system, the Federal Government plans to cut out the registry and will upload documents to a new platform.
To this end, the Belgian government launched the JustConsult web application in June. This allows victims to consult their criminal file free of charge online. This also allows victims of traumatic crimes to view documents without having to return back to the courts or registries.
Files are made available as soon as they have been investigated and sent to the courts. According to La Libre Belgique, during the first phase of the digitisation project, documents pertaining to sexual violence, domestic violence, murder, and murder cases will be made available to victims, due to the seriousness of the nature of the crimes.
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Upon the launch of the JustConsult platform, around 25% of files relating to these cases had already been scanned and digitised.
Since then, 134 student workers have been recruited until the end of September, in various locations across the country, to continue the digitisation process. Each student will scan around 1,000 pages per day, which are then recorded and saved into a central database.
Once the students finish their work placement, the task will be picked up by the regular staff of the registry, as several thousand more documents, including those from other categories of crimes, will still need to be scanned and digitised.
“Victims must be able to consult their file in peace. For many of them, this is an emotionally heavy and potentially traumatic event. La Justice recognises that much can and must be done. JustConsult offers this solution,” Vincent Van Quickenborne said at the event in Flanders.