A new bill entitled “Strengthening the position of the examining magistrate” (Wet versterking positie rechter-commissaris) has recently been submitted to the Dutch Parliament by the Dutch Minister of Justice.

The bill provides for a new, more active role of the examining magistrate (rechter-commissaris) in the preliminary investigation of criminal cases. The public prosecutor will remain in charge of the investigation and prosecution. In turn, the examining magistrate will be granted the position of supervisor of the preliminary investigation, ensuring that investigative powers are used lawfully. Furthermore, the magistrate will be able to perform additional investigative actions during the entire preliminary investigation at the request of both the public prosecutor and the defendant. The preliminary judicial investigation (gerechtelijk vooronderzoek) will be abolished.

As a result of the bill, counsel for the defence will have greater opportunities to contribute to the preliminary investigation by requesting additional investigative actions. This together with a more active examining magistrate, should lead to a more balanced compilation of the case file to be submitted to the court for further legal proceedings. The above should according to the government in turn lead to a more successful handling of the case during the examination in court.

The bill is part of the project to review the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure. Other bills that will follow in the future will include the regulation of the procedural documents, the position of the defense and the regulation of investigative powers and coercive measures. Due to their interconnectedness, the proposed bills are expected to ultimately enter into force on one fixed date, in the course of 2011.