Prosecutorial Discretion in the Netherlands: An Advantage for Politicians?

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Dutch criminal law offers politicians no immunity for public office offences. Cabinet members and Members of Parliament stand trial for these offences in a single instance, before the Supreme Court. The decision to prosecute is made by either the Parliament or the Government. The prosecution is not handled by the Public Prosecution Service, but by the Procurator-General at the Supreme Court. These arrangements exclude the possibility that the Minister of Security and Justice influences the prosecution. This minister enjoys wide powers of instruction vis-à-vis the Public Prosecution Service, which are necessary to keep the application of the expediency principle within acceptable limits. These powers of instruction can also be directed at political opponents. The special arrangements therefore aim at striking a balance between making prosecutions a real possibility and shielding politicians from light-hearted prosecutions. The desired balance is not found, however, because serious legislative shortcomings render the procedural arrangements ineffective. Dutch politicians therefore have little to fear from prosecutions for public office offences.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCriminal Liability of Political Decision-Makers
Subtitle of host publicationA Comparative Perspective
EditorsFrank Zimmermann
Place of PublicationCham
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-52051-3
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-52050-6
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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