A murder case that has shocked the Netherlands concluded today with the two accomplices being sentenced. Dutch law does not allow youths to be named in full and so the two have been called Polly W (16 years old) and her 18 year old boyfriend (Wesley C).
The details are patchy, but it seems that Polly fell out with Joyce Hau (a school friend) due to comments that Joyce had made on Polly’s facebook wall. After this, Polly and Wesley persuaded another boy, Jinhua K, to kill Joyce. Under some pressure, Jinhua stabbed Joyce to death. Joyce’s father was present and was also attacked, but fortunately survived.
Jinhua K was sentenced in September for the murder of Joyce and the attempted murder of her Father. He was sentenced to the maximum sentence allowed. As he was 14, this was 1 year detention with possibly up to 3 years detention in a psychiatric hospital (TSB).
TBS (ter beschikking stelling) is similar to a Hospital Order. After release from detention, the offender will be transported to a psychiatric hospital. They will be evaluated and can be released if they are not dangerous. There appears to be then a requirement to remain in contact with the hospital.
The two today were tried as youths on a charge of incitement to murder. They were sentenced to the maximum sentence for their age – 2 years imprisonment and 3 years TBS. The Dutch equivalent of the Ministry of Justice (Hoge raad der Nederlanden) also issued a summary in English of today’s sentence.
In practice, the terms of one and two years are calculated as if there were 30-day months, so the total sentence for Jinua is 360 days and 720 days for the other two. The time spent on remand to date will count,.Additionally, it seems that with good behaviour, they will be eligible for early release after having served half their sentence.
One huge caveat that we must state is that none of us are Dutch lawyers and therefore, whilst what we say is hopefully accurate, we can’t guarantee it. On that note if anyone Dutch, or who has experience in the Dutch legal system, wants to get in touch to help explain matters, that would be great.
An interesting question is what sentence would the three offenders have received if they were convicted in England?
Jinhua was convicted of murder. This is an offence contrary to s289 Criminal Code which states “anyone who intentionally and with premeditation takes the life of another person is guilty of murder and liable to life imprisonment or a term of imprisonment not exceeding thirty years of imprisonment or a fine of € 67,000.“
This is distinct from ‘Intentional Homicide’ (contrary to s287) which is Murder, but without the premeditation. In the UK, both would qualify as murder.
Whilst it is not entirely clear, it seems that Polly and Wesley were convicted of Incitement to Murder (under s48 Criminal Code). To prove this it would have had to have been proved that they “provide[d] the opportunity, means or information to commit the crime“. It may be that they were guilty of murder as principals (under s47) as being people who “by means of gifts, promises, abuse of authority, use of violence, threat or deception or providing the opportunity, means or information, intentionally solicit the commission of a crime“. The maximum sentence under s48 is 20 years.
Whilst there is an offence in English law of Soliciting Murder (which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment), both would have been guilty in England of murder on a joint enterprise basis and all three would have been given a mandatory life sentence.
As they were all under 18, the starting point for the tariff would be 12 years. Given the nature of the offence, it would not be surprising if the fact of their youth would have been more than outweighed by the aggravating factors and a tariff in excess of 12 years would be imposed.
Whatever exact sentence would have been passed in England, it is quite clear that the sentence here would be wildly different, and would also be far, far more severe. Whilst the Dutch children will be free of the system in a few years, had they been dealt with in England, they would have the life sentence hanging over their head for ever. More significantly however, in the Netherlands, they will still be in their teens when they get out of prison. In England they would probably still be incarcerated until their thirties.
It is clear that the Dutch have a different approach to punishment than the UK (especially in relation to youths). One can only imagine the outrage in England if we had a similar case here.
Oh. And in case you are wondering where that crazy Dutch liberalism leads? Well, you are nearly 3 times as likely to be a victim of violent crime in the UK than the Netherlands. Does the low sentencing lead to a higher murder rate? No. The UK has a higher murder rate than the Netherlands.
Still think that we’ve got it right over here?