Belgium: Moroccans judged differently

Belgium: Moroccans judged differently

A Phd research by Christophe Leys of the psychological faculty at ULB found that Belgians treat Moroccans in court differently than Belgians.

Leys researched whether suspects are judged differently based on the emotions they display in court. He had 160 people of various backgrounds study a case of aggravated theft. The facts were the same, but in one case the theft was committed by somebody with a Belgian name, and in another it was committed by somebody with a Moroccan name. He checked what sentence the test-sample gave, and whether there was a difference whether the suspect admitted his guilt or got upset.

When a suspect didn't show any regret and even got upset, everybody agreed that he deserved harsher punishment, regardless of his nationality.

"But it's striking that we give Moroccan a lighter sentences if they show regret and don't get upset in court," says Christophe Leys. "For us it's a sign that they're well integrated in our society. There's a strong bias against immigrants of North-African origin, that they don't show much remorse and are very short-tempered. If they don't meet the stereotype, we judge that favorably."

A Belgian who would act in the same way, would get an extra harsh sentence. "The Belgian has no excuse for his bad behavior. If he continues to protest his innocence or gets upset, it surprises us. Than there must be mitigating circumstances and we judge more mildly."

The researcher says this is not evidence of discrimination. "First because the test-sample didn't have many judges. I can't say that this behavior is typical for judges in our country. Second, because it can turn out to be more advantageous for a Moroccan than for a Belgian. I only wanted to show that we judged the emotions of immigrant accused differently than those of Belgians. That never came up in research on the reasons why so many immigrants sit in our jails. That is just one element, in addition to a whole lot of others."

Source: Nieuwsblad (Dutch)