The Brussels prosecutor’s office is to shelve some 1,700 cases because of under-manning, according to De Tijd and L’Echo newspapers. The cases in question are generally considered to concern minor offences, including shoplifting, theft without violence, intimidation and harassment. In the latter case, the decision means that a relatively recent law making it illegal to sexually harass women in the street is not being enforced in the capital to the extent intended when it was introduced.
The cases are being scrapped without ever having been closely examined by a magistrate, the papers report, simply because the office does not have enough staff to cope, and prefers to use its resources for more serious offences. However for the victims of such offences, the notion they are not considered serious enough to be prosecuted is one of appreciation.
The number of cases dropped is relatively small in comparison with previous years: in 2010 half of al charges were simply dropped before reaching court; in 2015 the number had fallen to one in four.
The information was revealed by the two sister newspapers – one in Dutch, the other in French – despite the lack of an official confirmation. It is not the practice of the prosecutor’s office, commented chief prosecutor Jean-Marc Meilleur, to comment on the policy of deciding whether to prosecute.
One source did say, however, that the prosecutor’s office “intended to continue in the coming years to increase the rate of penal response and to reduce as a result the number of cases dropped without charges”.