Netherlands Info Services (GM’s-Hertogenbosch), March 18, 2009
Two out of three serious teenage criminals are children of parents born outside the Netherlands. In most cases, no prison sentence is imposed, it emerges from a study sent to parliament by Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin.
In the research, 447 case files of youngsters aged from 12 to 17 were studied. All the files involved cases in which the perpetrator was convicted of a crime for which the maximum jail sentence is 8 years or more. These were murder, manslaughter, robbery with violence, extortion, arson, public acts of violence and sexual crimes.
Only just over one-third (37 percent) of the convicted youngsters are white Dutch. Two-thirds are of immigrant origin, meaning that they themselves or their mothers were born abroad.
“The most prevalent group of youthful immigrants (among the perpetrators) are young Moroccans (14 percent),” according to the report. For another 14 percent, the parents’ country of birth could not be determined. A further 8 percent of the young criminals came from Turkey, 7 percent from Surinam and another 7 percent from the Netherlands Antilles, 9 percent from the category ‘other non-Westerners’ and 4 percent, ‘other Westerners.’
The report also reveals that most offenders did not have to go to jail. Although detention was imposed in 69 percent of the cases–whether or not in combination with community service–the sentences were largely suspended.
Some 25 percent of offenders only received suspended detention. Another one-third received a combination of suspended and real detention and just 11 percent, only an unconditional prison sentence.
Fourteen percent of the very serious crimes were committed by 12-13 year olds, 25 percent by 14-15 year olds, and 50 percent by 16-17 year olds. All very serious types of crime were more frequently committed by 16-17 year olds except sexual offences, for which the 14-15 year olds were the biggest group. Here, the 12-13 year olds also deliver “a large share compared with the other types of offences.”
The core question in the study was how judges deal with youngsters aged from 12 through 17 who commit very serious offences. Hirsch Ballin concludes “that the courts can operate adequately with the sentences and measures that youth criminal law offer them. The study offers a nuanced picture of the handling of serious youth cases,” according to the minister.