New judge welcomed in Sint Maarten

PHILIPSBURG--Judge Sander van Rijen was welcomed officially as a member of the Joint Court of Justice on Friday, amongst an array of Justice officials and dignitaries, including Acting Governor Reynold Groeneveldt, Prime Minister Marcel Gumbs, Justice Minister Dennis Richardson and President of Parliament Lloyd Richardson.
Van Rijen was introduced to the assembly by President of the Common Court of Justice Evert van der Poel.
Van der Poel, Attorney General Guus Schram and St. Maarten Bar Association Dean Remco Stomp shared their views on the state of crime and Justice in St. Maarten, including its complexities and shortcomings. The fight against crime "can be described as turbulent and exciting at best," said Schram.
A rise in crime, issues of integrity and transparency, the need for strengthening the law enforcement system and the unsettling death of Officer Gamali Benjamin were key points of discussion. However, the serious tone of the meeting was countered with good humour, amusing anecdotes about cultural differences and a feeling of festivity, also on the part of Van Rijen.
Van Rijen will fit in well here, said Van der Poel, coming from the multicultural port city of Rotterdam, where judges are faced with a lot of varied work. Judges need to be equipped to deal with the same in St. Maarten, with a hands-on mentality.
Van Rijen worked as a lawyer in Rotterdam for 13 years, specialising in corporate law, insolvency and litigation. He switched to the judiciary system in 2001, working in the Rotterdam District Court as magistrate and senior judge for the port and trade team. He then became chairman of a large magistrate team, which entailed a combination of leadership and substantive work.
Van der Poel further described Van Rijen as a pleasant all-rounder with a strong personality, not afraid of legal complexities, who already had shown a no-nonsense approach to working in St. Maarten. He was said to have a knack for languages, which surely would serve him well on the island.
Three judges currently are based locally. A fourth judge, Maria Paulides, decided recently to ask for a transfer to another duty of the Court. She has left St Maarten since then and will work as a judge in Aruba or Curaçao.
Amongst changes announced was that another judge would be strengthening the team in January.

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