~Law Enforcement Council sounds alarm ~
(Philipsburg, Sint Maarten) – Despite the fact that all stakeholders agree on the necessity for adequate victim support, Sint Maarten still has no victim support office or any structural form of support for crime victims. The Law Enforcement Council is sounding the alarm.
Since 2012, the Council has, in multiple reports – including its initial report: ‘Victim support in Sint Maarten’, the ‘State of law enforcement’ and in the meantime, two review inspections – tried to draw attention to the importance and urgency of setting up and arranging victim support.
In that context, the Council has made recommendations to achieve this and, where necessary, carry out improvements. However, after seven years, the Council has to conclude that despite the fact that all parties involved have subscribed to the need for victim support, this has not yet led to the establishment of a victim support office or any structural form of victim support.
In its latest report the Council concluded that of the fifteen recommendations that were not followed in 2012 and 2016, none were given full follow-up in 2019. Four recommendations were partially followed and eleven recommendations were not followed.
The recommendations that were not taken up by the Sint Maarten Police Force concern the development of criteria in consultation with the Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding the provision of information to victims in the event of non-prosecution and the subsequent inclusion of these criteria in the process descriptions.
Regarding the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the following recommendations have not been followed: the provision of information to victims and the securing of this in a protocol, the standard informing of victims in the event of non-prosecution and the developing of reporting criteria.
Also not followed were the recommendations with regard to the developing of criteria for intensive counseling in cases, the developing of criteria for damage compensation and informing the police of its role in this context.
The Minister of Justice and the Sint Maarten Judicial Institutes Foundation have both not given follow-up to the recommendations with regard to guaranteeing the financing of the Victim Support Office by means of a budget reservation and direct control of the process of building up this office with the associated communication. In addition, the Ministry did not follow the recommendation to search for possibilities to establish a compensation fund.
The recommendations that were partially followed were: the offering of assistance and support to victims by including provisions in the new draft Criminal Procedure Code by the Minister; the description and implementation of police processes by the police force; the drafting of quality standards by the police force in consultation with the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the inclusion of the drafted quality standards in their process descriptions.
On the basis of its findings in this second review inspection, the Council feels compelled to sound the alarm because of the fact that victims in Sint Maarten have been structurally denied the necessary assistance for years. The Council hopes that specifically this second review report will make a difference and encourages the Minister of Justice to take action and provide victim support with the necessary (financial) priority and to actually establish the long-awaited Victim Support Office. The Council will monitor the developments in the coming period.
The review report and all other Council reports can be found on the Council’s website: www.raadrechtshandhaving.com or http://rrh-sxm.org.