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Has the assize court been abolished?

The Assize procedure underwent major reform in the context of the so-called Pot Pourri II Act. This costly and cumbersome procedure, whereby a criminal investigation has to be redone over several days or weeks before a 12 person jury, has only been used for the most serious murder and manslaughter crimes and press offences since 2016.

Less complex murder and manslaughter crimes, where the perpetrator admits the facts or where there are mitigating circumstances are handled by professional judges now and are no longer tried before a jury. The handling of such cases before the tribunal correctional has many practical advantages. A case can be handled in one or two days by only 3 judges, without a jury having to be appointed. The defendant can also appeal the decision, which is not possible for a decision of the assize court.

This procedure was first applied in October before the Antwerp tribunal correctional, where Laurent Mortelmans defended the daughter of a man from Kapellen who had been violently killed. This case will be handed again in May before the Court of Appeal in Antwerp.