‘Regt doende in den naam en van weegens het Bataafsche volk’. Het strafrecht en de strafrechtspraak gedurende de Bataafs-Franse tijd in Brabant
(‘Justice in the name of and by the Batavian people’. Criminal Law and Criminal Prosecution During the Batavian-French Period in Brabant)
At the end of the 18th century, the Netherlands came under the influence of France and Dutch patriots who called themselves the Batavians. They wanted reform for the Netherlands in multiple ways. For the criminal law system this meant a change in direc¬tion: instead of multiple sources of law-like local codes, common law and Roman law, the Netherlands received one source of criminal law; the first nationwide criminal code of 1809. This article reviews the change in the criminal law system and especially the change in criminal judgments for the period of the first criminal code as well as the period prior to that. As seen from judgments from this period in the territory now known as North-Brabant, the change in reality was not as major as the change in the law, although there were some notable alterations.
The first criminal code of the Netherlands brought unity, clarity and a systematic approach to criminal prosecution. It was the codification of a more humane criminal law system in which imprisonment played a larger role as a form of punishment for many offences. The first criminal code was valid for just two years – from 1809 until 1811 – but it was applied quite extensively. At first, the court officers also held on to old sources of law like Roman law to make their case, but soon enough they used the new criminal code as their primary source of law. Thieves and robbers were less likely to be sentenced to death and more likely to be put in prison. Banishment was also an often-used punishment, as it was before the criminal code, only now sentences for life-banishment declined. Another common offence in this time was vagabondism and begging. Remarkably, the new criminal code did not have any provision for this and it left the old provisions of the Ancient Regime intact. Perpetrators of violence were now more often put in prison, in contrast to the punishment of a fine that they usually received from the courts prior to the criminal code. Curiously enough, in the period in between the Ancient Regime and the new criminal code, these perpetrators were banished.