Dutch court kicks out case against father who isolated family for years

A Dutch court ruled on Thursday that a deeply religious father who kept some of his children isolated from the outside world for years in a remote farmhouse can’t stand trial on charges including child sexual abuse because he has been incapacitated by a stroke.

Prosecutors asked the court to drop the case last month because the 68-year-old suspect, Gerrit-Jan van Dorsten, was considered not fit to stand trial.

It was ruled on Thursday that a 2016 stroke had affected the father’s ability to communicate to the extent continuing the case would breach his fair trial rights. 

In a video statement announcing the ruing, court spokesman Marcel Wolters said: “He doesn’t sufficiently understand what is happening in the courtroom.”

The case made global headlines when authorities discovered the man had been living with his six children in a farmhouse in the eastern Netherlands for six years. The case came to light when one of the man’s sons alerted the authorities after escaping the farmhouse.

Prosecuted portrayed the father as a deeply religious man who believed his family was “chosen by God” who used physical beatings and other punishments to keep his children from succumbing to what he considered malign outside influences. 

The six youngest children were kept in seclusion since birth and had not had their births registered or been to school, as required by Dutch law.

The six children who were kept on the farm are now all young adults. Three older siblings had earlier left the family’s isolated life. Their mother died in 2004.

If you, or anyone you know, have been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

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