Tougher sentences for police on appeal in Jonathan Jacob death

Summary

An appeal court has refused to overturn sentences handed down by two courts to police officers in the case of Jonathan Jacob, who died in custody in 2010

Suspended sentences

Seven members of Antwerp’s special intervention squad (BBT) have had their appeal against a conviction for unintentional homicide rejected by the court of appeal. Six of the men were given suspended sentences of six months, while the leader of the squad was given nine months suspended. The sentences are higher on appeal than the four months handed down initially.

The case dates back to 2010, when 26-year-old Jonathan Jacob was picked up by police in Mortsel. Jacob was having a psychotic episode brought on by amphetamines.

He was taken to a psychiatric institution in Boechout but was refused entry because he was too aggressive. He then spent a day in a police cell in Mortsel, but his condition did not improve.

When a doctor arrived to administer a sedative, the intervention squad was called to remove him from the cell. Nine members of the squad used force to restrain him, which led to Jacob’s death.

Two lower courts found the police guilty, and the final appeal has confirmed those verdicts. In addition, the former director of the Boechout institution and its chief psychiatrist were found guilty of negligence, and each was sentenced to six months suspended. One member of the BBT and the chief of police in Mortsel had their convictions overturned.

Jacob’s father (pictured), whose efforts were instrumental in the outcome of the case, expressed relief at the ruling. “I’m coming to court for the 28th time,” he said. “That’s a burden on your health and your family life. I hope we can now put it all behind us.”

The police officers found guilty are currently on active duty. A decision on their future will be taken after Antwerp police have studied the judgement, a spokesperson said.

The BBT in Antwerp will be dissolved next year and team members transferred to the special interventions department of the federal police.

Photo: Jan Jacobs during his 28th appearance in court in the interest of his son, who died in a Mortsel cell seven years ago

©Dirk Waem/BELGA