Public order and safety

The focus group order and safety carries out multidisciplinary and comparative research into maintaining public order, in particular to the ways in which the pursuit of safety of persons and property law is executed.

Traditionally, public order is enforced by physical action – non-legal act – by the police, under authority of the mayor. In this context it is important to provide a system for the legal rules relating to this method of maintaining public order. How is the concept of public order defined? Does this definition meet the requirements of legal certainty? What is the relationship between these – so called – immediate powers for the maintenance of public order in, among others, the “gemeentewet” and the general rules of administrative law?



More and more, the maintenance of public order is juridicised because mayors establish their decisions in this field in formal Awb-decisions that can become the focus of administrative procedures. Sometimes, however, the maintenance of public order is so urgent that decisions cannot be formalized. Where to draw the line? The legislator does not provide a systematic framework for answering this question and the court appears to be searching for the right qualification and standardization of this administrative action.

Classification of instruments

The focus group seeks to order the available instruments by time and place: control disturbances in public places (‘the street’), in publicly accessible places (such as cafes and football stadiums) and private places (homes/companies). The focus group also discusses the connection between these instruments and fundamental rights, in particular freedom of religion, the right of assembly and demonstration, freedom of movement, the right to privacy and the right to physical integrity. It focuses in particular on the content and extent of recently developed powers, such as the closure of (drug) homes, preventative searches, a ban on contact or assembly and long-term area restrictions.

Obviously criminal law has traditionally been important for ensuring the safety of people and property. The focus group addresses the decisions of the judge and the recently introduced power of the public prosecutor to take decisions to maintain public order.

Private law is gaining importance in maintaining public order. Although the maintenance of public order is primarily a task of the government, there is an increasing in private actors: partnerships of public and private parties as well as purely private parties. Examples are housing corporations, a collective of shop owners or managers in the catering industry using private powers in a creative, but not legally undisputed, manner.


This raises fundamental research questions. The common denominator is how to balance public and private interests.


The initiators of the focus group Public order and safety:

Jan Brouwer (RUG)
Jon Schilder (VU)