First drugs users sentenced in Antwerp since zero tolerance


The first results of Antwerp’s new “zero tolerance” drugs law were seen yesterday, as those holding less than three grams of marijuana were handed heavy fines

Antwerp has imposed its first fines for those in possession of drugs since introducing "zero tolerance" laws. What do you think?

Less than three grams of marijuana leads to fine or jail time

A court in Antwerp yesterday sentenced the first drug offenders to be brought to trial since the introduction of the city’s policy of zero tolerance in September of last year. Twenty-four people appeared before magistrates, having previously refused to accept the offer of a fine of between €75 and €150.

One man was sentenced to community service, and one had a fine suspended. The rest were fined either €450 or €900, depending on whether the offence concerned “soft” drugs – cannabis – or “hard” drugs like cocaine, heroin and amphetamines. Those with previous drugs convictions were also sentenced to 15 days in prison.

In September, Antwerp changed its policy on the prosecution of possession of marijuana to allow adults holding less than three grams to be charged with an offence. Anyone in possession of that quantity, which is considered to be for personal use rather than dealing, would not have been pursued in the past; the three-gram rule is also in force in the rest of the country under the terms of a ministerial guideline to prosecutors.

The city council explained that the change was aimed at discouraging users from coming to Antwerp to obtain drugs at notorious dealing hotspots such as De Coninckplein and Stuivenbergplein. Since the change, several hundred people have been caught in possession, though most have accepted the offer of the lower fine.

Another group of offenders is due to appear in court in Antwerp on 21 January.

Antwerp court yesterday sentenced first drug offenders to be brought to trial since introduction of zero tolerance drugs law.

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