District courts

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About the district courts

The Netherlands is divided into eleven districts, each with its own court.

Each court has a number of sub-district venues. The district court is made up of a maximum of five sectors. These always include the administrative sector, civil sector, criminal sector and sub-district sector. Family and juvenile cases are often put into a separate sector, as is sometimes the case with the administration of the law concerning aliens. The court board is free to determine such matters.


Sub-district sector

It is relatively simple for ordinary citizens to have their case heard in the sub-district sector. They have the right to argue their own case and do not need a lawyer to represent them in court. Cases are handled by a single judge.

In terms of civil law, the sub-district judge deals with all cases involving rents, hire purchase and employment.

In criminal law, the sub-district judge only deals with minor offences, not serious offences. Often these are cases in which the police or the public prosecutor has proposed a settlement. If the accused refuses to accept such a proposal, then the case comes before the sub-district judge. The sub-district judge usually delivers an oral judgment immediately after the hearing.


Criminal law sector

The judges of the criminal law sector deal with all criminal cases which do not come before the sub-district judge. These cases can be heard by a single judge or in full-bench panels with three judges. The full-bench panel deals with more complex cases and all cases in which the prosecution demands a sentence of more than one year’s imprisonment.

Civil law/family law sector

The civil sector handles cases not specifically allocated to the sub-district judge. Most of these cases are decided by a single judge, but here too there are full-bench panels with three judges to deal with more complex cases. A number of district courts have a separate sector for family and juvenile cases, when the number of such cases is considerable.


Administrative law sector

With only a handful of exceptions, administrative disputes are heard by the district court; in many cases the hearing by the administrative law sector is preceded by an objection procedure under the auspices of the administrative authorities. It is usual for these cases to be heard by a single judge, but here too the district court can decide to appoint three judges to a case which is complex or which involves fundamental issues.

Tax cases also fall under the administrative law sector.

If the district court in question has no separate sector to handle cases governed by the law concerning aliens, such cases are dealt with by the administrative law sector or a division thereof.

In cases involving civil servants and social security issues, appeal is a matter for a special appeals tribunal, the Central Appeals Tribunal, and in most other cases for the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State.


The Judiciary System in the Netherlands

Image of the Dutch court system Representation of the Court system