The Netherlands Public Prosecution Service is responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal offences.
For a society to function efficiently and fairly laws are needed. People are not, for example, allowed to use violence, steal or damage property, and there are rules to ensure traffic safety. If someone fails to respect the law, someone else may lodge a complaint with the police. Or the police can arrest the offender. A suspect may also be arrested by a member of the public if they are caught in the act.
In the Netherlands, only judges and – in minor cases – the public prosecution service may impose punishment. Crucially, a person may be punished only if it has been established that he or she is in fact guilty of the offence in question. Doing this requires investigation and an independent judiciary.
After all, in our democracy governed by the rule of law, justice is a core value. Suspects, victims and society as a whole must have the confidence that they will be properly represented in criminal proceedings. The sentence must also be in proportion to the crime that was committed and provide justice for those affected by it.
The Public Prosecution Service is responsible for investigating and prosecuting criminal offences on behalf of society at large. Its work is aimed at ensuring that those who commit crimes are punished appropriately, that victims and next of kin feel that someone is on their side, and that the Dutch public are confident that the law of the Netherlands are applied fairly and correctly.
The Public Prosecution Service and the courts together make up the judiciary. The Public Prosecution Service is responsible for the enforcement of criminal law. It is the only institution that decides who has to appear before a criminal court and on what charge.
The Public Prosecution Service’s main tasks are:
- supervising the police in the investigation of criminal offences
- prosecuting criminal offences and bringing suspected offenders before the courts
- dealing with criminal offences without involving the courts
The Public Prosecution Service concerns itself only with criminal law. It therefore has no involvement in civil matters such as rent disputes, labour issues or divorce proceedings.
The Public Prosecution Service employs around 5,000 people, including some 800 public prosecutors.
Public Prosecution Offices
The Public Prosecution Service is a national organisation divided over ten regions. The organisation’s office (arrondissementsparket) in a given region is located at the district court (rechtbank) serving that region. Every office of this kind is headed by a Chief Prosecutor.