Please excuse our French. But speaking to the Netherlands’ ambassadors in The Hague Monday, Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot said that his diplomats needed to counter their countrymen’s image as “whore-mongering, coke-snorting child murderers,” citing a rather unflattering characterization of his nation apparently recently voiced on Fox News.
The U.S. TV channel might have been a bit overheated in its choice of words, but even here in Europe the popular stereotype of the Netherlands is that of an ultra-liberal society where soft drugs and prostitution are not seen so much as social problems but as important assets to the country’s tourist industry, and where judges seem to care more about the criminal than the victim. Changing that public perception will not have been made any easier by the latest piece of news coming from the Netherlands.
Dutch daily De Telegraaf reported this week that a court in the southern town of Breda sentenced an armed bank robber to four years in jail, ordering him to return the €6,600 he had had stolen. Nothing unusual about that. But here comes the Dutch twist. The criminal was allowed to deduct the €2,000 he had paid for the gun — as a business expense so to speak.
“That’s the case law here in Holland,” Leendert de Lange from the prosecutor’s office in The Hague told us. Readers will be surprised to learn that the underlying principle is that “crime shouldn’t pay,” as Mr. Lange reassured us. But apparently the Dutch also believe that crime shouldn’t necessarily cost you anything either.
Usually applied to calculate and recover the net profit from drug trafficking and other illegal activities, the relatively novel idea of deducting the purchase costs of a gun has raised quite a few eyebrows in the Netherlands. Still quite shaken by the recent murder of Theo van Gogh and the fear of Islamic terrorism, the country has already started to rethink some of its liberal paradigms. So maybe the media attention this case has gotten will help change Dutch case law before Fox News adds “crime subsidizing” to its description of the Dutch.