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Police chief in snooping scandal suspended from duty

© Alberto Rodriguez Santana for Unsplash

The head of the police zone Erpe-Mere/Lede near Aalst in East Flanders, Luk Lacaeyse, has been suspended from duty for four months while an investigation is carried out into allegations the police in the zone listened in on conversations between prisoners and their lawyers.

The mayor of Erpe-Mere, Hugo De Waele (CD&V), who also presides the local police committee, said the suspension was “a temporary protective measure to ensure the serenity of the investigation.”

The problem came to light when an accused person filed a complaint alleging he and his lawyer had been listened to while he was in custody, since that was the only way certain information could have come to the notice of the prosecution.

The complaint was investigated, and it was discovered that the security camera in the room set aside for confidential discussions was recording continuous sound and vision. In normal circumstances, only vision may be switched on, and only to ensure the safety of the lawyer. Sound may be only be switched on by order of an investigating magistrate, and for good reason.

The police said the problem was technical, and that the conversations had never in fact been eavesdropped upon. The installation has now been repaired, Lacaeyse said.

The case is now being investigated by the East Flanders prosecutor’s office. Meanwhile mayor De Waele is standing by his police chief.

Lacaeyse enjoys the presumption of innocence and the current suspension is only a measure to guarantee the serenity of the investigation,” he told the VRT.

As a police committee, we have assumed to date, in the absence of other conclusive data, that the findings from the report of the supervisory body on police information are not the result of deliberate policy, but of ignorance.”

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