Slow mills of legal system to grind faster

Expectations are high when a new justice minister takes office with a firm commitment to make the beleaguered justice system truly independent and impartial, providing equality for everyone before the law. The politician from Corinth, Anastasis Papaligouras, has an obvious challenge in front of him. In his first interview as minister, Papaligouras said he was determined to put an end to «outside,» underhand interference that was yet another example of entangled interests that «undermine the justice system and corrode all the institutions on which our democracy is founded.» He believes an important factor in achieving this is to allow the judiciary to choose their own leadership, based on seniority and merit, as well as to upgrade the Supreme Judiciary Council. Papaligouras urges all judges «to join together to stir up the muddy waters» for a justice system that is «strict, free of influence and absolutely scrupulous.» The new minister places particular importance on the self-evident principle (although one that is undermined in practice) that every person is equal before the law. Papaligouras would like to make the country’s prison’s more humane places rather than breeding grounds for corruption. Among his immediate priorities is to separate those who have been convicted of more serious crimes from other prisoners, and then to classify prisoners according to their sentence, sex and age, and the nature of their crime. As for the slow speed at which the wheels of justice are currently grinding – a conservative estimate puts the number of pending court cases at 225,000 – Papaligouras proposes a specific framework for action: the redistribution of the posts of judges and judicial officials based on the number of cases being tried, setting up new courts of first instance, and providing computer links for courts, judges and legal associations. Among the main legislative amendments he aims to promote are the decriminalization of many lesser offenses, replacing prison sentences with administrative sanctions. As for his new post, Papaligouras sees it as a total life change. «There are no set working hours, no free time,» he said, although he sees his appointment as «a great honor, but a great challenge to me to offer something.»

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