Extreme sentences demanded, mild court
As has been told in the Newsletters 16 & 17, members of the group JON had to face a lot of problems: arrests and house raids. All arrested people had travelled to Tunisia last summer. Anyone who had asked to see the photo’s of that trip has had his house raided, but also anyone who seemed to be a leader of the group. In June there have been court sessions with some remarkable facts.
One of the charges was the membership of a criminal organization with the aim to abuse children and to produce child pornography. In every session the court asked the prosecutor to which organization she referred: was it the group JON? In every session the prosecutor said "No sir, only some individuals, not that group."
Remarkably enough, there were no charges about behavior in Tunisia. In the Netherlands, making a confession is not enough for a conviction. Supporting evidence is needed for it. There was no supporting evidence because the Dutch police was not allowed to enter Tunisia to gather evidence or reports.
What remained were charges concerning the possession or spreading of child pornography and in some cases child sexual abuse that was confessed, reported and investigated. Also, in some cases, hiding illegal material to keep it out of hands of the police.
In this kind of cases, it is routine to establish social, psychological and psychiatric investigation and to ask those experts to advise the court. It is also routine to declare anyone who has even paedophilic feelings to be mentally distorted, to be a risk for recidivism, and to be in need of treatment. So was done in all cases.
De sentences demanded by the prosecutor were, for the Netherlands, extreme: six to eight years prison and in all cases forced treatment in a closed clinic by the state.
The court was very critical to the prosecutor. In one case, the prosecutor handed over a set of photos saying it was child pornography. The court had a look at the photos and said: "I do not see any child pornography here" and declared the accused to be free the next day.
A fortnight later, the court gave its judgment, which was remarkably milder than the prosecutor’s demands: from eight months to three years and only in one case forced treatment. The membership of a criminal organization was judged as not proven: the appointments for the trips to Tunisia were holyday appointments between individuals, not an organization. Those who had got the lowest sentences are already free now.
Remarkably enough, the Dutch press and TV had mentioned the high demands of the prosecutor, to say so, in capitals, but mostly has not mentioned the far milder judgement at all.
However, the prosecutor has appealed to a higher court in all cases. The story will go on. The next chapter has already started, because the prosecutor demanded that the accused had to wait for the appeal sessions in prison, even if they could be freed according to the judgment of the first court. The higher court decided to follow that judgment and to let them free. The higher court sessions will be in December.
In the meantime, the group JON goes on, has its talking sessions. We have made a kind of behavior protocol or code for the members to avoid such kind of problems in the future.