The Public Prosecutor demanded a prison sentence of one day plus 180 hours of community service against student Wouter B. During initiation ceremonies organised by the Groningen student association Vindicat, B. allegedly put his full weight on the head of a prospective member.
This maltreatment during a hazing ritual left the victim with a brain oedema that continues to affect his health every day. For this reason, the Public Prosecutor also demanded that B. pay the victim EUR 5,000 in damages.
The student was assaulted in a storage room for tennis gear that certain prospective members were taken to for additional intimidation during the initiation period, report Saskia Belleman (De Telegraaf) and Rob Zijlstra (Dagblad van het Noorden) via Twitter.
As became clear from various accounts, the victim, Rogier, had already had a run-in with the defendant Wouter B. earlier on. By coincidence, B. also served as the chairman of the committee charged with teaching pledges Vindicat’s standards and values. To this end, the committee occasionally resorts to physical violence. The members had practiced beforehand kicking the pledges’ legs out from under them (known as ‘sweeping’).
Witnesses recounted how they were repeatedly thrown against a wall and were covered with bruises afterwards. Apparently, this is fairly common practice during Vindicat’s initiation ceremonies. Wouter B. informed the court session that in previous years, the committee members also used sticks.
Did B. actually transfer his full weight to the victim’s head? The defendant maintains that he kept one foot on the ground and actually did not apply that much pressure. It was all part of an attempt to intimidate the pledge. B. does call this action “stupid in hindsight”.
Basilar skull fracture
It was also contested how serious the head injury is exactly. According to the victim himself and his parents, fluid was leaking out of his ear after the incident. This could indicate a basilar skull fracture, which was not, however, visible on photos of the victim’s skull. While such an injury was not ruled out by the consulted expert, no leakage of fluid had actually been observed by physicians. In the view of Wouter B.’s lawyer, the actual infliction of serious bodily injury has not been proven.
Incidentally, it is only possible to sentence a defendant to community service in combination with prison time. The Public Prosecutor actually didn’t consider a prison sentence appropriate in this specific case, but was required to demand it anyway.