NEWS

Reducing the huge backlog of court cases

Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras is preparing a legislation package for the new year that is to focus on improving the system through speedier judicial procedures. To that end, the new provisions will include the decriminalization of a large number of traffic, health and market violations which will in the future be subject to administrative sanctions and so contribute to a reduction in the backlog of court cases. Although many of the seats of corruption in the justice system have already been revealed through systematic investigation, this effort will continue over the next year. Already some 90 members of the judiciary are paying for their illegal actions. On the other hand, the end users are also paying for the improvements, since judges are being far stricter so as not to appear to have been influenced in any illegal manner. The side effects of the catharsis have become visible and judges are imposing the highest possible penalties, even for minor crimes, according to Dimitris Paxinos, head of the Athens Bar Association. This has caused concern in legal circles and has been raised by 200 lawyers in a letter to the Bar Association. One typical example of the courts’ new approach is the imposition of a two-year-and-four-month sentence without parole for a 67-year-old man, suffering from a 67 percent disability, who had stolen a flower pot. The ministry seems determined to make an effort to stamp out corruption. Early in the year, a bill on fighting graft in the private sector is to be tabled in Parliament. For the first time, accepting and offering bribes will be classified as crimes. As for the penal system, the total capacity (currently 5,500) of all prisons will have been increased by 40 percent by the end of this year. The new prison at Domokos is to open in a few weeks and the Grevena facility by April. Construction of the Serres prison should be completed during the first half of he year, as well as a new women’s prison in Elaionas, Thebes, to house the approximately 350 female inmates currently at Korydallos Prison. In the fall, the jail facility in Drama will be ready, and early next year another in Hania, on the island of Crete, is to open.