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Alumnus Allard Altena is a Public Prosecutor: ‘It’s just the best job ever!’

Since graduating from Leiden Law School with master’s degrees in Jurisprudence & Philosophy of Law and Criminal Law, alumnus Allard Altena now works as a Public Prosecutor at the Dutch Public Prosecution Service. He says, ‘I leave work at the end of each day knowing I’ve done something useful.’

Allard Altena

Why did you decide to study law?

‘I had a good look around at different degree programmes before I made my decision. I also thought about studying philosophy and history. But what ultimately drew me towards law was the combination of theory – laws and regulations, and the way society is organised and structured – and practice – working with people. It was that sense of being able to make a difference through law that really appealed to me.’

Did you know you wanted to become a Public Prosecutor when you were a student?

‘When I was a student, it suddenly occurred to me one day that I wanted to work in criminal law. I did several internships – in legal practice, in the Jurisdiction Division and so also at the Public Prosecution Service. The reason why criminal law appealed to me is the very same reason I decided to go to law school: that combination of theory and practice. On the one hand, I do my court-based work, which is very legal and technical, and on the other hand, I have a very practical role as a Public Prosecutor leading criminal investigations.’

What’s the best thing about your job?

‘It’s just the best job ever! My work is so varied – I work in close collaboration with the police on criminal investigations and I get to travel to lots of different places. I still considered practising as a lawyer, which is another wonderful profession. But I won’t want to represent just one interest. As a Public Prosecutor, I weigh up the interests of all parties involved: the offender, the victim and society as a whole. All of those interests come together in my work. But I think the best thing about my job is that I go home every day knowing I’ve done something useful.’

Can you give an example of something you’re proud of?

‘Coming to solutions in really tough cases. For example, if someone dies as a result of a crime and I’ve been able to work well with the police during the investigation. Or that moment when you know you've caught the right person. It’s satisfying when you can say to the next of kin at the end of a case: there’s no question this person carried out the offence. It gives me peace of mind. There’ll never be complete satisfaction because, at the end of the day, someone died. But hopefully the facts of the case, the trial and the verdict give the next of kin at least some degree of closure and comfort.’

Do you feel burdened by the decisions you have to make?

‘Of course I do – my job involves making important decisions that affect other people’s lives. Anyone who does this job has to be comfortable with that and be able to let it go when they go home at the end of the day. Fortunately I have no problem with that. I do have to make important decisions in my work, but I don’t have to make them on my own and I have plenty of colleagues I can spar with.’

What do you do to relax outside of work?

‘I really enjoy running – I’ve run several marathons now. What I like about it is that it doesn’t tie me down. I can put on my trainers and go for a run whenever I feel like it.’

What’s your guilty pleasure?

‘I love playing board  games – I don’t think many people would think that about me.’

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