It’s not a new problem. Belgium’s senior magistrates and public prosecutors have been sounding the alarm over the lack of resources allocated to the country’s justice system for some time. Michel Claise, examining magistrate in Brussels, came to remind him at the microphone of Maxime Binet this Friday.
The profession deplores a shortage of around 1,000 police officers in the judicial police and is asking for an emergency reinvestment: a Marshall plan of around 135-155 million euros each year, over 5 years to compensate for it.
“This is a problem that has existed for years”, recalls Michel Claise. “It’s not just the police problem. We are talking about justice so it is also about magistrates, the police are the Ministry of the Interior, two things that are going very very badly. The plan must be comprehensive to be effective. It must target the police forces but also those of the judiciary”, he specified.
“As a magistrate, I am sorely lacking in police officers: an understaff and a lack of means. Also, when the case is over, there are no magistrates to judge it”, he explained. In his work, Michel Claise faces both a “difficulty to investigate and a difficulty to judge the files on which I investigated”.
A situation that does not allow the legal professional to exercise properly. “I do my job but these are plasters on wooden legs at the moment. Of five files that I sent to the federal police to appoint investigators recently, they replied to me, in four files, that they did not have the means to process them. Which means we have 4 out of 5 files waiting in cabinets“, laments the judge. “Another concern: we have files that go to the courts and you are witnessing delays, up to 2 to 3 years, at the level of the court of appeal for example“, he added.
While this alert has been ringing for several months in Belgium, Michel Claise is very angry with the federal government.“How to remain polite? You heard the cry of the prosecutors, Mr. Ignacio de la Serna, Frédéric Van Leeuw, and myself. We expressed ourselves in the press to denounce the lack of means but also the immense importance that have taken on criminal organizations in our society. In particular drug trafficking, but not only. I attended an interview on an antenna where the journalist asked Mr. De Croo: ‘You have three magistrates who are ringing the doorbell’ alarm saying that democracy is in danger’ Mr De Croo replied: ‘Let them prove it“, he said, appalled.
“How to stay polite? It’s unworthy”, hammered the examining magistrate again.“From the moment when the number 1 representative of the government considers that there is no reason to worry while the professionals on the front line are sounding the alarm, how can this approach be qualified on his part? is an inadequacy which directly affects the balance of society and therefore the interests of citizens”.
“If he wants us to meet and I prove to him, it’ll take five minutes.“, he supported, calling on the government to change its attitude. “They are on Xanax rather than viagra if you allow me the expression. They would have to wake up to realize the immensity of the phenomenon.”