By Panagiotis Stathis
More than 50 changes are included in the plan to reform the Codes (Criminal and Criminal Procedure) which is expected to be put up for public consultation soon, and was outlined by the Minister of Justice, G. Floridis, in the debate on Justice held at the Circle of Ideas conference Evangelos Venizelos.
A special chapter, as he said, in the reformation of the codes is the dichomania of the Greeks. It is characteristic that he invoked a phrase that had been formulated in 1892 when 130,000 criminal cases were pending in Greece (!!!). As he said, “130 years later the phrase of the time ‘pursue the two-maniacs’ must be put into practice, heralding a ‘monetary penalty’ for apparently unfounded reports” :
“….Another thing that was introduced in Greece in 1892 is the famous dikomanei. Today you go and make a report to the prosecutor which can be indictments, it can be anything. The prosecutor orders a preliminary investigation, so people will be busy, policemen, culpable clerks people will suffer and in the end the DA can put her on the record. This has no effect on the person who made a patently baseless report. Well, now we say it will. It will be a fine imposed, which it will be very difficult to overcome it. Something like a legal expense. Now we will do this in Greece after 130 years that the international financial audit recommended that it should be done. In 1896 is the proposal, it is preserved in its entirety, because they had found that in Greece which was up to Lamia, they had found 130,000 pending criminal cases and they said either you have no justice at all or you are bigoted. So they came to the latter and said the phrase “go after the bigoted”, after 130 years we say let’s do it “.
Mr. Floridis’ positions on the criminal treatment of crimes are eloquently outlined by his disgust that “Greek society has been experiencing for decades a sense of lawlessness and a sense of impunity”. And recording the effort to break this, he recalled the common experience of all who serve as Justice for the country’s criminal system: “I have said it many times. It is distinguished by two things, one is the provision of a multitude of punishments and the other, an amazing ingenuity so that the punishments are not served”.
“…Greek society is plagued by what we call small- and medium-sized crime, which in fact remains unpunished. So this creates a feeling that in Greece whatever criminal activity you do and develop you are not going to have any consequences,” said Minister and recorded the interventions that should lead to the imposition of sentences: “Not necessarily that all cases should be sent to prison, but facing impunity we should go to an escalation, which includes three things. One is the reinstatement of the conversion of the penalties into money, the second is social work and the third is the serving of the penalties either partially or in full”.
Essentially, Mr. Floridis explains that the sentences – or rather part of the sentences – even for negligence (or offenses of the so-called small and medium crime) convictions will be served. In short, “the rule is an end to impunity and the exceptions will be the preventive nature. This now as a general intervention, one will see it and in some crimes in particular it is greatly strengthened”, said the minister citing as an example the multi-fatal traffic accidents and citing characteristics that “the provision in the Code for manslaughter by negligence, the lowest penalty is three months. Three months now basically become two years or three years…. It is not possible to start from the three months when you have killed a person”.
With reference to the effort to speed up the pre-trial, Mr. Floridis revealed specific actions for direct referral (without a will) by the prosecutor, the single-member courts and the extension of criminal conciliation:
-“…We want in the pre-trial process to remove in several cases the votes, that is, to have a direct referral to the court by the prosecutors.
We also want to increase single-member compositions. For example, we have the single-member composition of the Court of Appeals that tries felonies. That is, one appellant tries felonies, while trying misdemeanors on appeal requires three judges. That is, you try a felony by yourself, you try three misdemeanors, that’s not possible. It also balances out. Except for some special cases.
– We bring the criminal conciliation even before the prosecution and this with the current provisions can only be applied if a prosecution is instituted and afterwards. We want it now and before. Also, today this is only done at the request of the person being prosecuted, the accused. Now we also give the prosecutor the opportunity to call him and the prosecutor directly proposes to him a criminal treatment proposal, which can lead to what we call conciliation”.