Man imprisoned for 18 days due to police typing error

A man from the Brussels municipality of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek spent 18 days in a prison cell last year because the police had incorrectly noted down the name of the suspect they were actually seeking to apprehend. The innocent man’s solicitor says that he plans to file a damages claim.

In 2017 police detained a man on suspicion of violent robbery, assault, the position of banned weapons and residing illegally in Belgium. After questioning the man’s surname was incorrectly noted down, a mistake that was to have grave consequences for another man two years later. The second man that had no connection to the suspect was sent a summons. However, as he was abroad at the time he was unable to respond straight away.

He was sentenced in his absence to three years imprisonment and was arrested and taken to prison on his return to Belgium.

The man’s solicitor Medhi Abbes told VRT News that “As a result of a spelling mistake in the surname my client  was arrest arrested for no valid reason”.  

"Once he appeared before a judge it soon became clear that my client wasn’t the suspect and he was released. However, when he arrived home he discovered that his landlord had changed the locks. He has had to seek alternative accommodation”.

Mr Abbes is to demand damages for his client. “The figures for this are set at between 20 and 50 euro/day. In this case it wouldn’t amount to 1,000 euro, while this is a man that had never been in trouble with the law. This has had an impact on him. We will try to get as high a figure in damages as possible”.