Judge Carolien Giesen joins St. Maarten Court

PHILIPSBURG–New Judge at the Courthouse of St. Maarten Carolien Giesen was officially installed Friday afternoon during an extraordinary sitting of the Joint Court of Justice. A number of high-ranking officials attended the ceremony in the packed upstairs courtroom, Governor Eugene Holiday, Prime Minister William Marlin, Minister of Justice Edson Kirindongo, and Parliament Chairperson Sarah Wescot-Williams among them.


Giesen, who is in St. Maarten since January, previously was a judge at the Court of Amsterdam, an international city with a multi-cultural society. President of the Joint Court Evert Jan van der Poel said this was considered an asset in the selection of judges for St. Maarten, as society here is also very diverse and multi-cultural.

First and above all, Giesen will be performing duties as an Investigating Judge in criminal cases, a job she has also performed during her career of 17 years in Amsterdam.

One of the things she took with her from the Netherlands is her bicycle, which she uses to commute from Cole Bay to the Courthouse. A small engine aids her in getting across Cole Bay Hill. Also the tempo in which she walks through Front Street: “decisively and with quick strides” is testimony to the fact that the tropical climate is not slowing her down, said Van der Poel.

Giesen said it was important to her to listen carefully in this “strange world with opinions from different cultures, and also different languages and accents. I realize that I must listen to all these sounds,” she said.

With Giesen’s arrival St. Maarten once again has four residential Judges. As per August 1, Judge D. Gruijters will start handling criminal cases. From then on St. Maarten will have a full team of five Judges. In the meantime, Judges from Aruba are filling the gaps where the hearing of criminal cases is concerned.

In addition, J.J.J. Schols will be starting his new job in St. Maarten as Judge of Instruction per May 1. It concerns a two-year appointment in connection with the plan to combat cross-border undermining crime.

Countering statements that motions filed in the Dutch Parliament’s Second Chamber had been instrumental in sending more Judges to St. Maarten, Van der Poel said that the Joint Court of Justice is having a clear and independent position.

“If the Police and the Prosecutor’s Office have to focus more on combatting undermining crime then the judicial power also needs to be strengthened. Sooner or later cases will appear before a Judge and he should be able to render a judgment. Without sufficient capacity within the judiciary the plan to strengthen law enforcement cannot be implemented,” the Joint Court President said, adding that financial resources should not only be allocated for investigation and prosecution.

Calling for cooperation between the judicial partners, among which the Prosecutor’s Office, Van der Poel said that the manner of approach by the Prosecutor’s Office is not decisive for the way in which the Joint Court renders justice. “Obviously the Court holds an autonomous position and decides for itself at which location Judges will be working in connection with the plan to strengthen law enforcement.”

“They are all being appointed on the Joint Court’s recommendation to guarantee independence. It is, therefore, not so that whoever pays also decides how the law is being organized. The Court decides that and that is a good thing,” Van der Poel stressed. “It all sounds obvious, but sometimes it must be repeated to avoid misunderstandings,” he said.

Chief Prosecutor Ton Maan also addressed the new Judge in his capacity of Acting Solicitor-General. He said the position of magistrates has changed over time. “The black gown has become of glass; one looks right through it,” said Maan in stating that the media and society have become much more critical and sometimes question the independence and integrity of Judges.

He announced a policy to further professionalize the Prosecutor’s Office and a “joint intervention network” for an integral approach and better communication with the community.

The Chief Prosecutor made a plea to work together in prevention and a moral revival in cooperation with partners in the judiciary, as well as public and private institutions, such as community centres, schools and churches. “Repression alone is not sufficient, prevention is equally important,” said Maan.

Dean of St. Maarten Bar Association Aernout Kraaijeveld made a plea for more post-academic judicial education and for indexation of the fees for free legal assistance for crime suspects which have not changed since 1993.

Source: The Daily Herald Judge Carolien Giesen joins St. Maarten Court