More jail for traffic offenders

The Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens is bringing forward legislation that will oblige criminals to serve at least half their jail sentence even for jail terms under 4 months. Mr Geens hopes that the law will put an end to a situation that means many people are escaping their just deserts.

According to Belgian judges it's especially repeat traffic offenders that often escape proper punishment. Mr Geens now hopes to offer them a wider range of ways to punish criminals: "Real traffic criminals and repeat offenders will be made to feel it and will be removed from society."

At present, usually only a third of a jail sentence is actually served as long as there is no repeat offence. Mr Geens now intends to make this half.

At the same time the Justice Minister will also promote more alternative sentences. Judges will in future be able to sentence offenders to probation and probationary measures like a driving or a detox course as separate punishments. More work sentences too are promised.

Koen Geens denies that his new approach will put extra pressure on already overcrowded Belgian jails.

"Even in the event of a serious traffic offence jail remains the sentence of last resort. We're taking other measures to address overcrowding. Remand custody will be restricted. People without residency rights will be repatriated and more electronic tagging will be used."

Speaking with the daily De Standaard the Justice Minister conceded that the changes would cost money, but he's confident easing pressure on jails will lead to savings.