Dutch government to trial blockchain-based digital law

Written by Sam Trendall on 15 December 2017 in News

Country’s Ministry of Justice and Security to experiment with online process for informing criminal suspects of relevant laws and options

The Binnenhof building in The Hague, pictured here, houses the Dutch parliament  Credit: J. Kruse/DPA/PA Images

The Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security is to launch a blockchain-based trial project to save the police and the courts system’s time by digitising parts of the prosecution process.

The ministry is working with contract digitisation firm LegalThings to create a digital version of certain parts of Dutch criminal law. This will then be made available through a digital application, meaning that suspected criminals can read the relevant law and the options available to them in their own time. The company claims this will save police officers time they would otherwise have needed to spend explaining complex laws. 

The aim is to complete the digitisation and begin a real-life trial by the end of next year.

“By making the law understandable for everyone, millions of euros will be saved by the Dutch government, which increases the satisfaction level for all parties involved,” LegalThings said.

This digitisation will initially be for certain comparatively low-level crimes, such as petty theft and possession of small amounts of illegal drugs. LegalThings claimed that such cases typically account for a significant amount of time in the working lives of judges, district attorneys, and police officers. Digitising part of the process will allow more time to be spent on bigger cases, it added.

The digital legislation will be put on a blockchain. This project forms part of the Dutch government’s wider ambition to be a world-leader in adopting the distributed ledger technology. 

The justice department is one of a number of the country’s central government agencies – including the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Climate, Infrastructure and Water Management, and the Interior and Kingdom Relations – to have formed the Dutch Blockchain Coalition. Other coalition members include various financial, professional services, and technology firms, as well as universities and transport hubs.

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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