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The Administrative 'War on Drugs' in the Netherlands: Drug-Related Evictions And Closed Buildings

06 July 2016
Michelle Bruijn, LLM
Michelle Bruijn, LLM

Michelle Bruijn, PhD-student at the department of Legal Methods, spoke Wednesday June 29th at the “Third Annual Fordham International & Comparative Urban Law Conference” in Hong Kong about the administrative “War on Drugs” in the Netherlands. Bruijn received an invite for the conference thanks to her visit at Fordham University in New York last March to discuss her research and possible collaborations.

Administrative enforcement under the Opium Act

Bruijn spoke at the conference in Hong Kong about the Dutch approach towards drug-related crime in the real estate sector. In the Netherlands, the mayor (who chairs the local government) is entitled to close down any premises in case drugs are sold, delivered, supplied, or present for one of these purposes, in or near the premises (Article 13b Opium Act).

The use of this power often bears huge consequences: doors and windows are sealed and the respect to one’s private life is seriously interfered with. The closure results in the (temporary) lock down of entire companies and the (temporary) eviction of families, even if it involves private housing.

Together with her promotor Michel Vols, Bruijn wrote a first statistical analysis of Dutch litigation regarding Article 13b Opium Act (see M. Vols and M. Bruijn, “De strijd van de burgemeester tegen drugscriminaliteit,” Netherlands Administrative Law Library (2015), 1-23). The findings of this research provide a first inside into the court’s reasoning and the characteristics that seem to determine the case outcome. For instance, whereas the court seems tougher on hard drugs than on soft drug, the quantity of discovered drugs does not seem to have an effect on the court decision. Moreover, the analysis shows mayors seem to adopt an ‘one strike you are out’-policy, meaning that no prior warning is issued.  

Current research: closed homes v closed buildings

In Hong Kong, Bruijn talked about her follow-up research in which she analyses Dutch litigation regarding the closure of buildings and coffeeshops, and compares these results to the data on home closures. The first results show a significant difference in court decisions between home closures and closed coffeeshops and buildings. Another interesting finding is that there does not seem to be a particular defence that is successful in court.

For her PhD research, Bruijn will expand this study and will continue to use this relatively new legal research method to obtain a rich understanding of court procedures and legal reasoning in cases regarding drug-related crime. She will also study the (non-criminal law) approach towards drug-related crime in other jurisdictions, such as the One Strike Rule in the United States.

This article was published by the Faculty of Law.

Last modified:17 July 2023 09.21 a.m.
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