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Citizens Enforcing the Law: The Legal and Social Space for Citizen's Arrest

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In the Netherlands, the right of citizens to arrest the suspect of a crime is the subject of debate. At stake is whether citizens engaging in law enforcement should be punished for taking the law into their own hands. In the political sphere, it is argued that by enforcing the law, citizens are making a contribution to public safety in cases in which the State cannot guara In the Netherlands, the right of citizens to arrest the suspect of a crime is the subject of debate. At stake is whether citizens engaging in law enforcement should be punished for taking the law into their own hands. In the political sphere, it is argued that by enforcing the law, citizens are making a contribution to public safety in cases in which the State cannot guarantee adequate protection. In the legal sphere, however, it is argued that this could open the gates for eigenrichting (own way/vigilantism). In this context, author Astrid Bosch raises the following questions for discussion: Have the legal norms constraining citizens' right to enforce the law become outdated? Is there, thus, a gap between the current legal and social opinions regarding citizen's arrest? Would bridging this gap, by broadening the legal space for citizen's arrest, endanger the rule of law?


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In the Netherlands, the right of citizens to arrest the suspect of a crime is the subject of debate. At stake is whether citizens engaging in law enforcement should be punished for taking the law into their own hands. In the political sphere, it is argued that by enforcing the law, citizens are making a contribution to public safety in cases in which the State cannot guara In the Netherlands, the right of citizens to arrest the suspect of a crime is the subject of debate. At stake is whether citizens engaging in law enforcement should be punished for taking the law into their own hands. In the political sphere, it is argued that by enforcing the law, citizens are making a contribution to public safety in cases in which the State cannot guarantee adequate protection. In the legal sphere, however, it is argued that this could open the gates for eigenrichting (own way/vigilantism). In this context, author Astrid Bosch raises the following questions for discussion: Have the legal norms constraining citizens' right to enforce the law become outdated? Is there, thus, a gap between the current legal and social opinions regarding citizen's arrest? Would bridging this gap, by broadening the legal space for citizen's arrest, endanger the rule of law?

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