The consequences of a breach of trust by the government

Wednesday 22 March 2023, 2:30 pm
N. van Triet mr.
prof. mr. R.J.B. Schutgens, prof. mr. C.H. Sieburgh
Faculty of Law

Trust in the government can take different forms. From undefined expectations to legal obligations for the government or honouring trust. The recent decline in trust in the Dutch government, due among other things to the Childcare Benefits Scandal and gas extraction in Groningen, has grown into a social problem, one that has the potential to undermine the rule of law (see recent criticism of the Dutch government by the National Ombudsman in an interview entitled ‘Ombudsman highly critical of the government's functioning in 2022: 'They failed and didn't deliver on their promises’’, ‘The citizen’s perspective’ is often cited as a way to make the government a ‘trustworthy government’ again.  

This research study considers a subtopic of the social issue of trust in the government, namely legitimate trust derived from government statements and the administrative and civil law consequences of a breach of the resulting trust. A legal comparison between administrative and civil law reveals, among other things, that from the perspective of disappointed citizens, there is a need for more legal unity and legal protection when determining whether there has been a breach of legitimate trust, and if so what the consequences are of this breach. It is not that every citizen’s appeal to a breach of trust must succeed, but rather that there should be a better explanation of why an appeal does or does not succeed. This research study therefore articulates proposals for both administrative and civil courts on how to meet those needs and contribute to a more trustworthy government. 

Nikky van Triet studied Classical Languages and Cultures (2008-2012) and Law (2009-2014) at Leiden University. In 2014, she completed a Master’s degree in Constitutional and Administrative Law cum laude, before completing the Magister Juris at the University of Oxford in 2015. She has been practising as a lawyer in The Hague since 2015 in the field of government private law, administrative law, and civil cassation practice. She has been working as a cassation lawyer at BarentsKrans since July 2022. She is also the editor of Maandblad voor Vermogensrecht (Property Law Monthly) and a test developer for the Public Liability course of the Dutch Professional Lawyers' Training Course (Beroepsopleiding Advocaten). From June 2017 to June 2022, Nikky worked as a part-time PhD candidate and lecturer at Radboud University, and since September 2022, she has worked as a Research Fellow at Radboud University's Research Centre for State and Law.