Brussels court vault bursting with crime evidence

Fri Jul 8, 2011 9:47am EDT
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By Robert-Jan Bartunek

BRUSSELS (Reuters Life!) - The Brussels criminal justice system needs an urgent clean-out.

With more than one million items of evidence from past crimes, including baseball bats, a severed human hand, crowbars, bullet-riddled car doors and a totem pole, the basement of the vast palace of justice in Brussels is running out of space.

Every year 40,000 new pieces of evidence related to crimes in the Brussels area arrive at the imposing 19th century landmark, with more items entering than exiting.

Evidence is placed in carefully marked boxes, but there is little obvious sense that the boxes themselves have been placed in any particular order.

"I am pleased to say that we never have any difficulty finding things," Luc Hennart, president of the Brussels court of first instance, told Reuters late on Thursday.

"The big problem that we have at the moment is the lack of space. Any time a bit of room is found, it is used up because there's just more and more and more."

Investigators, he said, bring in more objects than they need and keep them in the vaults for too long.

Items used as evidence in trials are kept until prosecutors decide they are no longer needed, at which point they are destroyed, sold or returned to their previous owners.   Continued...

<p>Baseball bats, crowbars and hammers are some of the pieces of evidence stored in the basement of the Brussels palace of justice, July 7, 2011. REUTERS/Yves Herman</p>