Justice must be swift

Justice must be swift

It turns out the country is owed 1.8 million Netherlands Antillean guilders (see related story) in unpaid fines over the past four years. Especially in an unprecedented socio-economic and financial crisis as the result of a global pandemic, that seems like a significant amount of money. Of the in total 3,999 notifications, 217 were returned by Postal Services St. Maarten (PSS) due to incomplete, incorrect and/or inaccessible addresses.

Follow-up was done by mail before Hurricane Irma, but because of the widespread destruction of homes and subsequent relocations the Prosecutor’s Office now depends on traffic controls by police to catch evaders. One should keep in mind that there is little to do until the court hearing.

If the culprits fail to react or show up a judge may add 50 per cent to the amount with six weeks to pay. If they still do not, the prosecution will issue a first notice with an extra NAf. 25 levy and four-week term, to be followed by a second one with the same term and adding another 20 per cent. The next step could be a lien on assets or even jailtime.

One would think motorists want to avoid all this by paying up soon after the infraction, but the reality is that many feel they can get away with not doing so. Just like tax evaders, their compliance to a large extent depends on enforcement.

Another example are prison sentences not executed promptly, although lack of cell space is a serious issue. While it obviously regards convicts not considered a threat to society, this creates the wrong impression.

The same is true for not bringing suspects to trial within a reasonable period. As they say, perception is everything.

To be effective and fair, justice must be swift.