Tragic shooting in Alphen aan den Rijn
On 9 April 2001 Tristan van der Vlis shot and killed five people in De Ridderhof shopping centre in Alphen aan den Rijn, furthermore wounding seventeen people (one of whom died of his injuries) before killing himself.
Shortly after this tragedy it became known that although Tristan had been suffering from mental disorders, the police had still issued him with firearms licences. This raised questions about the role of the police in granting firearms licences to mentally unstable individuals.
Following an investigation by the National Police Internal Investigations Department the Public Prosecution Service issued a report concluding that the police had followed the procedures for granting firearms licences.
The victims and surviving relatives had their lawyers file a joint request to see the report of the National Police Investigations Department. It took a great deal of debate and procedures before the victims and surviving relatives received a heavily redacted version of the report. The report showed that the police had been aware of Tristan’s psychiatric history and had made mistakes when issuing this psychiatric patient with firearms licences.
On behalf of the victims and the surviving relatives, civil proceedings were filed against the National Police. The Court was asked to rule on the liability of the police.
The Court and the Court of Appeal of The Hague confirmed the facts presented by the victims and surviving relatives. Both courts held that the police had acted unlawfully by granting and even renewing the firearms licences. The Court, however, felt that this did not mean that the police were liable for the loss suffered by the victims and surviving relatives. This ruling was set aside on appeal when the Court of Appeal decided that the police were indeed liable. The police then filed appeal in cassation with the Supreme Court.
On 20 September 2019 the Supreme Court ruled, setting aside the police’s appeal in cassation and establishing the police’s liability towards the victims and the surviving relatives. With its ruling the Supreme Court confirmed that the policy had breached its duty to keep society safe by issuing a firearms licence to Tristan, although they were aware of the risk of abuse. Please click here to read the full, anonymised, ruling in this case of 20 September 2019 (in Dutch only).
The victims and relatives were happy with the Court’s ruling. The same goes for our firm, which has represented the victims and the surviving relatives throughout the proceedings.
For more information, please contact John Beer or Christa Wijnakker. You can also reach them at +31206732199.