Dutch to close four more prisons as crime rate continues to fall: AD

The cabinet is considering closing a further four prisons because of falling prisoner numbers, the AD said on Wednesday. Sources told the paper prisons in Zoetermeer, Zeist, Almere and Zwaag in Noord-Holland are set to be shut down by justice minister Sander Dekker, in the first major cuts since 2013, when 19 jails were earmarked for closure. The AD says Dekker has chosen to exempt prisons in more rural areas because of the impact on the local jobs market. Dutch justice: falling crime rates and prison closures The 2013 closures led to a storm of protest from prison workers and the government began 'importing' prisoners from Belgium and Norway to fill the gap and keep some prisons open. The previous government decided not to close more prisons because of the impact on employment rates. Empty beds The closures are inevitable because around one third of prison beds are now empty: of the 13,500 beds available in 2017, 8,400 were occupied, the AD said. National statistics office CBS said earlier this year that the crime rate in the Netherlands is now back to the level in 1980, with 49 crimes reported for every 1,000 members of the population. The justice ministry has not yet comments on the claims, but Dekker is due to outline his views on the prison service before the summer break, the AD said.  More >

People in NL are retiring at a later age

People in the Netherlands retired on average five months later in 2017 than they did in 2016, as the state pension age continues to rise. Last year, the average retirement age was 64 years and 10 months, the national statistics agency CBS said on Wednesday. At the beginning of this century, the average retirement age was 61. Just four in 10 workers retire before they reach the age of 65, compared with almost nine in 10 in 2006. The state pension age has been increased steadily since 2013 and will reach 67 years and three months by 2022. Education The CBS figures also show people with a college or university degree are likely to retire 10 months earlier than manual workers. 'This is all to do with affordability,' CBS chief economist Peter Hein van Mulligen, told the Telegraaf. 'It costs a lot to be able to retire at 63 and people with lower levels of education cannot allow themselves to do this.'  More >

Farmers approached by drugs gangs

Some 15% of Dutch farmers have been asked by criminal gangs to rent out empty barns or storage space, Trouw said on Wednesday. The actual figure could be higher because some farmers who took part in the survey may have been unwilling to admit they have been approached by drugs gangs, the paper said. The figures come from Trouw research into farming in the Netherlands. Police in the south of the country say that between one third and 20% of farmers have dealt with inquiries from criminal gangs. Barns 'Many farmers have no one to take over their business and farm buildings are being left empty,' police spokesman Freek Pecht told the paper. 'It is very difficult for a farmer in that situation to say "no" if someone makes them an offer of cash.' Land is cheap, says Janus Scheepers of the local farmers' lobby group ZLTO. 'In the countryside, square metres don't cost much and you are relatively invisible. And it is easier to dump your drugs waste in a ditch than in the middle of a city.'  More >

Queen Máxima speaks of 'dear, sick sister'

Queen Máxima has spoken for the first time about the death of her younger sister Inés, who committed suicide earlier this month. Máxima, who was visibly emotional, took time after her visit to the new proton cancer clinic in Groningen to make the short statement. It was her first public appearance since the death two weeks ago. The queen said how pleased she was to visit the centre, which gave hope to people with cancer. ‘My dear little, clever sister Inés was sick,’ the queen said. ‘She could not find happiness and she could not be cured. Our only comfort is that she has now, finally found peace.’ The letters and support from people ‘really helped’, the queen said, before going on to thank everyone who had shown respect for the family’s privacy at such a difficult time.  More >

Vatican loans Caravaggio to Utrecht museum

The Vatican has agreed to lend one of Caravaggio's most admired altarpieces, The Entombment of Christ, to Utrecht's Centraal Museum for a new exhibition which will open in December. It is extremely rare for the work, which is over three by two metres, to be lent to another museum and the loan has taken over a year to arrange. The painting, which dates from 1603-04, will have a key place in the new exhibition Utrecht, Carravagio and Europe which features over 60 paintings, 46 of which have never been seen in the Netherlands before. The Carravagio work will be in Utrecht for four weeks but the exhibition itself runs until March 24, before moving to the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.  More >

Youth faces maximum sentence for killing Savannah, 14

A 17-year-old youth on trial for the murder of a 14-year-old girl last year faces the maximum sentence of two years youth detention followed by treatment in a secure psychiatric unit. The public prosecution department told the court on Tuesday the youth, who was 16 at the term of the killing, is guilty of murder because his internet behaviour showed he was planning to do something to the girl before she disappeared. Savannah was found dead in a ditch on an industrial estate three days after she disappeared on her way home from school. The boy was arrested a day after her body was found. Evidence The public prosecutor says camera footage, dna traces on a soft drinks can and social media interaction showed the boy was close to the place where Savannah’s body was later found. He was also filmed on her bike and the pedals showed trace evidence of mud and water consistent with the ditch. The youth has denied killing the girl and has refused to answer questions in court. The case is being held behind closed doors because the defendant is still a minor. Two deaths Savannah disappeared at the same time as another 14-year-old girl, giving rise to fears that there could be a connection between the deaths. Last November, a 14-year-old boy was found guilty of the raped and murder of 14-year-old Romy. Both attended the same special needs school. The fact that the two girls disappeared around the same time and just 20 kilometres apart led at the time to speculation that they may have become the victims of a serial killer.  More >

Record number of kids in closed care

A record number of 2,710 children were being cared for in secure institutions last year, a rise of 8% on 2016, according to a new report by Unicef and Defence for Children. The decision to lock up a child is often 'too drastic' and the help to vulnerable children falls short in 'far too many cases', the organisations said. 'The figures have to come down,' Suzanne Laszlo, director of Unicef Nederland told NOS radio. 'No child should ever be put in a secure institution unless there is a psychiatric need to do so. And that is not always the case.' Children often end up institutionalised because of the growing waiting lists for youth social services. In addition, there is no overview of what care services are available since responsibility was decentralised to a local authority level, Laszlo said. Nevertheless, on the whole the situation facing children in the Netherlands has improved, she said. For example, improvements have been made to systems for reporting a registering child abuse and there has been a drop of 26% in the number of children held in police cells.  More >