Home closure as a weapon in the Dutch war on drugs: Does judicial review function as a safety net?

A widespread sense of a failing criminal justice system and increased feelings of insecurity changed the response to crime into a culture of control, which is characterized by policies that punish and exclude. In the Netherlands, these influences can be witnessed in the war on drugs where local authorities use their administrative power to close homes involved in drug-related crime. Citizens can invoke judicial review over these administrative interferences by claiming that such closure results in an unfair balance between purposes, means and consequences. This paper assesses whether judicial review functions as a safety net against losing one’s home due to drug-related crime.

The paper used doctrinal legal research methods to examine the “law in the books” and empirical legal research methods to analyse the “law in action”, as well as a survey to investigate how often the drug-related closure power was used in 2015, and statistically analysed all published case law of Dutch lower courts between 2007 and 2016.

The scope of the closure power broadened over the years and our data show that local authorities fiercely make use of this instrument. In 41.4% of the cases, citizens are successful in fighting the closure. While scholarly literature indicates that judicial courts function as safeguards by questioning the proportionality of administrative action, raising a proportionality defence does not necessarily result in a more favourable outcome for citizens. In fact, raising a proportionality defence makes it more likely to result in dismissal of the appeal.

The stretched scope of the drug-related closure power together with the relatively low success rate of citizens who fight the loss of their home and a seemingly meaningless proportionality check show no sign of a safety net against the loss of one’s home at the suit of a local authority.

Publication Date: 
Elsevier B.V
Journal Name: 
International Journal of Drug Policy