A youth magistrate in Antwerp has ordered the detention of two boys aged 12 and 13, accused of carrying out a series of violent robberies in the district of Merksem.
By law, the detention of offenders aged under 14 can only take place if the offender presents a particular danger to society.
The offences date to the beginning of August, when a series of robberies took place in Merksem, the district best known for the Sportpaleis. The crimes involved the presentation of a knife, a replica handgun and a machete. The targets were a frites stand, a bakery and a supermarket.
Another suspect, aged 18, was arrested and detained as usual. The two younger boys were sent in front of the youth magistrate, who decided to have them detained in two separate detention centres.
The boys will be kept in custody for three months before appearing once more before a magistrate. The Antwerp prosecutor’s office described the circumstances as “very exceptional”. Normally the local justice system encounters no more than one under-age minor in a year.
According to the criminal law, the detention of minors younger than 14 can only take place “if a person between the age of 12 and 14 has committed a serious attack on the life or health of a person and whose behaviour is exceptionally dangerous.”
“The exception did apply to both boys here,” said Lieselotte Claessens, spokesperson for the Antwerp prosecutor’s office.
“These were particularly serious offences. They were armed robberies in which the victims were threatened with weapons. Knives were shown, a gun was used, as well as a machete,” she said.
Neighbours of the 13-year-old are afraid of him and his behaviour, Gazet van Antwerpen reports.
“Even his parents, good people, are terrified. He’s already slapped his father almost once. He and his friends, including older boys, are the terror of the neighbourhood.”