National Ombudsman: Bonaire Public Prosecution Service made mistakes, apology appropriate

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The National Ombudsman has upheld a complaint made by a Bonaire resident against the Public Prosecution Service. The ombudsman says that the PPS should have publicly admitted that the criminal investigation involving the complainant had taken far too long and that it had made a number of mistakes. The ombudsman also finds that the PPS failed to deal with the complainant’s grievances in an acceptable manner. These are the main conclusions of a recent report by the National Ombudsman, Reinier van Zutphen.

Serious impact

The person who submitted the complaint against the Bonaire PPS was active in the island’s political life. The PPS launched an investigation after a local organisation accused several politicians of fraud and money-laundering. Following criminal proceedings lasting many years, the complainant was cleared of all wrongdoing. The way in which the PPS conducted the case nevertheless had a serious impact on his life, and his family also suffered.

The proceedings went on for several years and attracted considerable media attention. The PPS violated the complainant’s privacy by passing on information about the case to the foundation which had made the original allegations. Soon after the complainant was found not guilty, the Chief Public Prosecutor gave a press interview in which he made certain remarks which might have created the impression that this verdict was incorrect. The National Ombudsman says that the PPS should have considered the damage that such statements would cause the complainant’s reputation. The ombudsman also finds that the PPS should have done more to ensure that the complainant received the money that he had been awarded in legal costs.

Apology

The National Ombudsman believes that it is important for government organisations to be less rigid when they make mistakes. He has called on the PPS to offer a full apology within six weeks and to meet with the complainant to discuss a mutually acceptable gesture of goodwill.