Standing up for a just society

‘The judge, the attorney and the public prosecutor: each plays a specific role during the handling of a criminal case. We’re all there, sitting in the courtroom, with a suspect in our midst. What would be an appropriate punishment?’ This is a question that Floortje Geerdink deals with every day. She works as an assistant public prosecutor at the Public Prosecution Service, and her duties include acting as deputy public prosecutor.

Floortje Geerdink
Floortje Geerdink (Law, 2015 and Criminal Law, 2016) is assistant public prosecutor at the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service

As a public prosecutor, I stand up against criminal offences, but I also look at the offender’s individual personality. How can we get this person to stop committing crimes?

‘I ended up in this position via a traineeship. Well, “ended up in” makes it sound really easy, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t easy at all; I worked extremely hard to get here, of course. The admission process was tough, and the various selection days, the tests and the aptitude test that I took to get here were not easy by any means. You have to be prepared to jump through lots of hoops. My strength is that I really want to learn, I’m assertive and I fight for what I want. I’m very ambitious. The atmosphere at Utrecht University is like that, too. Students help each other find good work placements, for example.’

Floortje comes into contact with many UU alumni in her work. ‘We all have a tremendous drive to make a difference.’ She can trace her own eager attitude back to former housemate, classmate and fellow study society member Milou Peels. ‘When I was worrying about my future, she gave me some advice that helped me a lot. “Floortje,” she said, “you just have to take the first step, and that will be enough to set things in motion.” So that’s what I did. My first step was volunteer work at Rechtswinkel, an organisation where students provide free legal advice. As Milou had said, one thing led to another.’

Milou Peels (Law, 2013; Corporate Law, 2015; Private Law, 2015) works as an employment lawyer at DLA Piper. She and Floortje were classmates and housemates.

As a junior researcher working on a project about the role of Victim Support Netherlands, Floortje had the opportunity to interview a public prosecutor: fellow alumnus Teis Tanghe. ‘When Teis told me what his role involved and what he stood for, I knew that I also wanted to work at the Public Prosecution Service. He truly inspired me in that interview. Amazingly – after all these years – I’m now working with Teis on juvenile criminal cases.’

Together with her colleagues, Floortje is striving to create a safe society in which justice prevails. ‘I quite literally stand up for society and for victims. At the same time, I always look at the offender’s individual personality. Punishment plays a role, but there’s more to it than that. How do we ensure that the accused makes a different choice next time? How can we do justice to the impact of the incident on the victim and society, while at the same time helping the offender so he or she doesn’t commit a repeat offence?’

Teis Tanghe (Criminal Law, 2006) is a public prosecutor.

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