A closer eye on judges?

The country’s top prosecutor and judge yesterday urged the government to appoint inspectors with wide-ranging powers to monitor members of the judiciary for corruption, in the wake of the trial-fixing scandal in which a total of 11 judges are being investigated. During a meeting with Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras, Georgios Kapos and Dimitris Linos, president and prosecutor of the Supreme Court – Greece’s highest court for criminal and civil cases – expressed dismay at the corruption charges, but stressed that most Greek judges are honest. «The strength of our system of justice lies in its prestige, which makes the system trustworthy and ensures respect for its decisions,» Linos said. «But the overwhelming majority of the judiciary should not feel there is something they should apologize for, because very few of their colleagues are dishonest.» A senior Supreme Court prosecutor is investigating some 32 cases of alleged corruption involving at least 11 judges and a Church of Greece official – who is expected to be charged within days. The scandal broke earlier this month following allegations aired on a TV program which showed, among others, a court of first instance judge allegedly accepting a 5,000-euro bribe to award a traffic victim damages of 59,000 euros. Among the proposals Linos and Kapos presented to Papaligouras was the appointment, by the Supreme Judicial Council, of an appeals court judge whose exclusive brief would be to monitor investigating magistrates. Furthermore, they called for existing inspectors to be given assistants who will keep a close watch on court of first instance judges – who make up the majority of the judges now under investigation for alleged corruption, mainly in drugs cases. The two top officials also recommended measures to speed up the course of justice, proposing that civil cases that are delayed for over eight months should be automatically removed from the judge responsible for the delay. Papaligouras, who will discuss the problem with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis today, was quick to point out that the trial-fixing scandal could not reflect on the entire judiciary, but pledged tough action against corrupt judges. «We will take a series of strict legislative measures to confront unwholesome cases in the judiciary and restore faith in the body,» he said, without elaborating.