Kortrijk considers negligence charges against people who walked past dying man


The public prosecutor explains what negligence means after at least eight people ignored a man who soon died in the city’s central square

They ‘looked in his direction’

Witnesses who walked past a dying man in Kortrijk’s Grote Markt last week are being questioned by police. Local police in the West Flemish city are considering charges of negligence against citizens, who camera footage shows clearly saw the man.

Video of the square (pictured) shows that the 45-year-old man collapsed at 00.20 on Wednesday night. A police cruiser found him dead about two hours later.

“At least eight people walked past him during that time,” Tom Janssens of the Kortrijk public prosecutor’s office told De Standaard. According to Janssens, it’s not a matter of the passers-by not seeing him in the dark. “On the footage, it’s clear that all of them looked in his direction.”

The prosecutor has identified two of the people who walked past the man, who apparently died of natural causes, and has called them in for questioning. Charges of negligence can theoretically lead to a fine of up to €4,000 or even jail time.

“We don’t yet know if we will press charges,” said Janssens. “The man’s family has also not asked us to do so.”

While such occurrences rarely see charges filed against average citizens, “they are required by law to offer help,” explained Janssens. That’s within reason, of course. “If someone is drowning, and you can’t swim, then of course you shouldn’t jump in the water. It’s about helping someone without putting yourself in harm’s way.”

In this case, he said, one of those people should have dialled the 112 emergency line.

Photo courtesy Smiley.toerist/Wikipedia