Statute of limitations in Dutch criminal law
This contribution sets out to explore the Dutch regulatory system regarding the limitation period on both prosecution and the enforcement of imposed criminal sanctions. Given the existence of certain parallels between on the one hand the statute of limitations and on the other the right to trial within a reasonable time, the latter will also be discussed insofar as this right is important for a more holistic understanding of the former. This contribution aims to achieve these goals by describing and analysing the relevant Dutch legal framework on these topics, as well as recent changes and developments therein. In doing so, we will highlight certain typically Dutch characteristics of the regulatory system in question, and we will connect these characteristics to broader overarching developments and cultural features of the Dutch criminal law system. We find that, over the last two decades, the scope of the statute of limitations in Dutch criminal law has gradually (but quite seriously) been narrowed down. This development can be understood against the background of a more general tendency to remove ‘obstacles’ to criminal prosecution, as well as a Zeitgeist characterised by a fixation on the (presumed) interests of both the victim and the general public. We argue that the modality of the expiry of the right of prosecution or enforcement due to the passage of time or due to the exceedance of the reasonable time is a meaningful one, containing a certain constitutional quality which fits a system governed by the rule of law.
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