Introducing stiffer sentencing for serious crimes, the government officially announced sweeping changes to the country’s penal code on Friday.
The new legislation, announced by Justice Minister Konstantinos Tsiaras before going to a vote in Parliament, seeks to rectify the penal code that were hastily passed on the eve of the last parliamentary elections by the then SYRIZA government, to the chagrin of opposition parties.
The new provisions introduce life imprisonment as the only sentence for homicide, deadly robbery, gang rape, high treason, as well as the sexual abuse of minors.
Moreover, the actual time served by those given life sentences will increase to at least 18 years, instead of 16 today.
Also, the prosecution of sexual abuse of minors will now take place ex officio – regardless of whether the victim or relatives file suit or not.
Furthermore, the statute of limitations begins when minors reach adulthood.
If the crime against a minor is a misdemeanor, the statute of limitations will apply when the victim turns 19 years old. If the crime is a felony it will apply when victims turn 21.
Radical changes have also been introduced regarding sexual crimes and domestic violence, which have recently been on the rise.
For all sexual crimes, the penalties are stricter, with incest becoming a felony again.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court prosecutor can order that these cases take priority so that they can be settled in court quickly for the victims can get justice as soon as possible.
The new provisions concerning the criminal treatment of forest fires and the destruction of the environment are also seen bringing significant changes along with tougher sentencing.
More specifically, arson will be treated as a felony, carrying an eight-year prison sentence, regardless of whether the fire was caused by negligence.
Sentences will reach up to 15 years if the arson caused the general degradation of an area, such as in northern Evia this summer, or if there is an ecological disaster.
Indeed, for the first time, life sentences are provided for arson that cause even one death.
Changes also criminalize illegal fishing in Greek territorial waters, as well as reckless and uncontrolled fishing, in an effort to protect the marine environment.