Joint Court President and Chief Prosecutor urge MPs to pass Criminal Procedure Code

Joint Court President and Chief Prosecutor  urge MPs to pass Criminal Procedure Code

PHILIPSBURG--Joint Court of Justice President Mauritsz de Kort and St. Maarten Chief Prosecutor Hieke Buist have urged Members of Parliament to debate and pass the draft Criminal Procedure Code.

These calls came during their respective speeches at Friday’s installation ceremony of Gerben Drenth as a judge in St. Maarten’s Court of First Instance.

All three Dutch Caribbean countries had an updated Code of Criminal Procedure come before their Parliaments. Aruba has passed this piece of legislation and it will come into effect on January 1, 2024.

St. Maarten’s updated draft Code of Criminal Procedure has been at Parliament since 2019.

“Curaçao and St. Maarten are, unfortunately, still lagging behind,” said De Kort. “It would be a shame if St. Maarten – especially as a leader in the field of constitutional law – does not respond properly to this.”

Without an updated Criminal Procedure Code, there is a risk of “serious distortions” in the procedures of the court, said De Kort.

“The criminal court may then have to provide guarantees with regard to investigative actions of the Prosecutor’s Office. This, in turn, may have consequences for the legality of criminal investigations and the admissibility of cases,” he said.

St. Maarten’s updated Criminal Procedure Code will give civilians more rights and protections in criminal proceedings initiated by the Prosecutor’s Office, said Buist.

This includes victims of crime, she added. “For the victim of crime, it will become possible to submit a claim for more damages, where the current maximum stands at 50,000 guilders. The victim will have the right to an interpreter and the right to speak during the court session.”

The amended law will also see changes in the terms of pre-trial detention and when an expert is involved in a court case, said Buist. “The [Prosecutor’s Office – Ed.] OM urges Parliament to make haste with the handling of this new Criminal Procedure Code and to play its role in making St. Maarten safer.”

De Kort said: “The new code aims to provide an improved assessment framework for judges when ruling on the powers of the Prosecutor, which ultimately means better legal protection for suspects. The updated Criminal Procedure Code also better guarantees the rights of victims. … I therefore call on Parliament to quickly take its legislative responsibility in this regard, to handle the draft law and offer residents the legal protection they deserve.”

The Daily Herald

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