Laurie Dieffembacq

What do you risk if you flout the new regulations?

The government has taken drastic action to tackle the coronavirus emergency.  People flouting the new rules risk jail and a fine.  Belgium’s public prosecutors have agreed on a common approach.  Compliance with the measures is a priority.

“Police can ask people to legitimise their actions” says interior minister De Crem.

Non-essential journeys are not allowed.  Essential trips to buy food or go to work are, unless working from home is an option. Taking a breather with one member of your household or a friend is permitted too.  

Ine Van Wymersch of Halle-Vilvoorde prosecutors says that only a small minority are not sticking to the rules that include the closure of bars and restaurants, but that those who do flout the regulations are endangering the public health of a very large group: “We can’t let this happen.”

“The police will first try to make people aware of the situation and try to convince them with words.  Retail outlets can be ordered to close.  If this doesn’t help, a police report can be drawn up opening the way for a prosecution.”

Belgium’s prosecutors are adopting a uniform approach in efforts to ensure the new rules are implemented as a priority.  Prosecutors can enforce payment of fines through amicable settlements or subpoena you to court.

Ine Van Wymersch: “We hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it has to, it will.”

She points to legislation from 2007 on civil security: “I’ve never known it to be used, but we can use it.  It includes penal sanctions.  We can initiate prosecutions. Prison sentences go up to 3 months and there are fines of up to 4,000 euros.  It may not sound a large amount, but the conviction goes on your record.”