New multi-agency collaboration – pulling together as a recipe for better justice

Where organisations in the criminal law domain used to originally operate in a chain, things changed when a different approach to dealing with common crimes was adopted. The police, the Public Prosecutor's Office, victim support, and the probation service are all based at one single location, enabling them to handle complete cases within a time span of only nine hours. With this new working method, cases are kept simple, settled quickly, handled together, and treated as selectively as possible.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

There was discontent lurking among professionals in the multi-agency chain. Common crimes require a rapid response to show that they will not be tolerated. However, responses were often far from rapid in the chain, as the chain was organised inefficiently and not sufficiently aligned with the actual crimes.

Aside from that, it lacked focus on the suspect's context. In parallel to this, a political drive to cut processing times for criminal cases developed on a national scale, prompting five regions that include the Netherlands’ major cities to launch a pilot. Within six months after the start of the pilots, hundreds of cases had been settled through new collaborations between law enforcement agencies. And after one year, as much as 18 percent of cases were dealt with using the ZSM approach. The pilot phase was completed in 2012.

The new way of working was implemented on a national scale between 2012 and 2013. In 2016, 189,000 cases were discussed at the joint ZSM table. Of these cases, 109,000 where settled by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, representing nearly half of all the Public Prosecutor’s Office’s cases. One focus point that was shaped further is the involvement of the solicitor. His or her active involvement in the ZSM settlement process is indispensable for reasons of lawfulness, i.e. to look after the suspect's interest. Accepting a direct settlement could, for example, have consequences for a suspect when applying for a job later, as he or she would then not be granted a certificate of good conduct to submit to a potential employer. Getting lawyers involved during the first stage of a criminal investigation was important in making suspects aware of such consequences. It is also important that suspects not be summoned too soon. The new ZSM approach is intended to continue to use the principle of settling as many cases as possible independently. The process is further optimised by developing new working methods that will first be trialled in practice. Throughout the process, weighing the interests of both sides is important for the collaborating agencies.

The innovation has been implemented irreversibly, albeit that the Public Prosecutor's Office does still fall back on old working methods at times, with the focus being on processing time, while prevention of repeat offences should be the central focus of the monitoring. Where ZSM often targets an intervention that materialises as quickly as possible - such as a behaviour order - the indicator that is used is the processing time of the final settlement of the criminal proceedings, which insufficiently reflects the on-the-spot aspect of other kinds of interventions. What also comes into it is the question whether a penalty order requires a traditional paper-based record, or that a penalty order is intended to, in conjunction with adequate legal assistance, enable effective instant settlement of the case, whereby an electronic record will suffice.

Innovation Description

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Year: 2012
Level of government: National/Federal government


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