Draft law seeks to spur justice

In the latest of several bids to speed up Greece?s sluggish court system, Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou on Thursday presented to the Cabinet a draft law intended to shake up the sector through changes such as penalties for judges and prosecutors who delay in expediting cases.

The changes outlined in the draft law are expected to bring unprecedented changes to the country?s justice system, which has not received a revamp in 24 years and is believed to be one of the biggest obstacles to the reforms the country is having to push through as part of its agreement with its foreign creditors.

The new legislation covers the country?s criminal, civil and administrative courts.

The most radical of the changes introduced regards the assessment of the performance of judicial employees, giving the state the right to penalize judges and prosecutors who are causing unnecessary delays in the issuance of decisions by holding back part of their wages or reducing their holidays. Employees causing any delays in the work of the courts will also receive a write-up in the personnel file and may be passed over for promotion.

Furthermore, the time limit for courts to reach a decision on a case has been reduced to six months, while in the case of emergency procedures such as injunctions, they will have just one month in which to deliver a decision.

It currently takes the average case nearly 10 years to get to court, while around a million legal suits are still pending.

Another change is that promotions will no longer be granted on the merit of seniority alone, especially among the higher echelons of the justice system. Nevertheless, under the draft law, only 20 percent of promotions to high courts and to the benches of appeals courts will be based on performance rather than on seniority.

Greece is ranked fourth out of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe in terms of the number of convictions it has received from the European Court. Since 1997, Greece has been obliged to pay 8.4 million euros for unjustifiable delays in the dispensation of justice.

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