Education and career
- Master’s degree Criminology and Law
- Member of the Supervisory Committee of the Antwerp Prison
- Holder of the certificate Special training in Cassation proceedings in criminal cases
- Intensive research on fundamental rights and freedoms, with a focus on the right to privacy and the fight against discrimination and racism
- Large-scale HOA research project ‘Human Rights in Situations of Extreme Dependency’: the privacy freedom of the elderly in residential care centers
- Lawyer at the “Balie Provincie Antwerpen” since July 1, 2012
Because of my social and educational environment, I have developed a passion for criminal policy, (human) rights and justice from an early age.
After my studies in criminology and law, my interest in vulnerable people in society has increased even more: victims, perpetrators, foreigners, detainees,… Since I have no political ambitions, the legal profession was the most obvious choice to stand up for the most vulnerable.
You start with a certain gullibility the first few times in a courtroom: fact X happened, the law says Y, so Z will be the result. I’ve lost that naivety. Every lawyer experiences that. “But there is literally X in the law and the judge says Y? How is that possible?’
There is much more going on. Everything is open to interpretation. And everyone is affected. For me, the defense therefore goes further than a purely legal approach. I have the will to weigh in on the social debate on law and the state and look beyond the letter of the law.
Take the file Sanda Dia, the student who died after a initiation ritual by the Leuven student club Reuzegom. That file grabs you by the heart: the intense sadness, the search for answers, the ignorance. Sanda passed away in 2018, it’s not uncommon for everything to take so long, but that obviously hurts a lot.
Whether there is class justice will be explored to the very bottom. And yes, it is also a mediatized file. Crime and such traumatic files dominate the social debate more than ever. I think that is necessary, the media is a pillar of the rule of law. It is precisely these social discussions that they should make open to discussion.
I work with many inmates and for me the suspect is central, not the act itself. I always see the good in people, I look for the person behind the facts, even if they are horrific. Everyone has the right to a defense. And the difference between a delinquent and law-abiding person is often not fundamental. I think that in principle everyone is capable of committing crimes.
The criminal law culture keeps me very busy. Suspects and/or offenders are immediately stamped and are often put away in prison. But what is the point of this, are the punishment goals actually being achieved? They usually come out worse. Don’t get me wrong: perpetrators must be punished, that is justice. But as already mentioned, perpetrators are also people and often very vulnerable. In my view, there is rarely any question of a resocialising effect of the prison sentence. And the deactivating effect of the prison is undeniable.
I make a difference between a client and a file. And only one thing counts for a client: they must respect me, that is the most important. Then I go to the extreme.
I prefer a file to be legally challenging, and not purely factual. The more complicated, the more interesting. Something may be socially accepted, but is it also legally correct? For example, our right to privacy is constantly being violated.
I hope the world becomes a little more humane again. Going back to the core and the importance of certain rights. Virtually no one today questions the policy. I often have the feeling that I am alone in court. In recent years everything has become more fearful, conservative and repressive.
The only positive thing about the corona crisis is the attitude of people. Gradually and very carefully people are venturing back to asking questions.
We must realize that the government is taking more and more far-reaching measures under the influence of fear. This at the expense of our human rights and freedoms, which are no longer inviolable. I hope people will come to realize again why those hard-won rights were originally created.
News and publications
- Situation Afghanistan AssistanceOur office is following the dramatic events in Afghanistan closely. We are currently trying to find answers to various questions such as ongoing family reunions, … Read more
- Change in Dataretentionbill not in line with jurisprudence EHJGovernment totlally ignores judgment of highest Court Lawyer Raf Jespers, who was involved in the proceedings against the data retention law, was interviewed by DeStandaard … Read more
- GDPR and EthnographyDuring the Ethnographic Research Seminar 2020 at Ghent University on September 16, 2020, lawyer Raf Jespers gave this presentation. The dissertation systematises (in English) the … Read more