New law to speed up criminal proceedings
There have been frequent complaints in the Czech Republic in recent years over the speed, or lack of it, with which the courts deal with criminal cases. There is an immense backlog of cases, and the EU and leading judges have called for widespread judicial reform. But the Czech Senate passed an amendment to the criminal code on Friday that will speed up trials for petty crime, a move that has been described as progressive and even revolutionary. Nick Carey has this report.
"The new code stipulates that in pre-trial detainment the accused can continue to be detained by order not just of the court, but also the state attorney. The Bill of Rights in our constitution says that this order can only be imposed by the court, so I felt that these two clauses contradicted each other."
Despite his abstention, Senator Zantovsky believes that the new criminal code will greatly benefit the Czech judicial system, even with this contradictory passage:
"It speeds up the legal process, especially with respect to petty crime and minor offences. It enables the court to proceed very quickly and this see that justice is done as soon as possible. It modernises the trial process itself, in that more of the evidence is presented and proved directly in court, rather than in the pre-trial process."
After the vote on Friday, Justice Minister Jaroslav Bures told the Senate that this is the biggest change to the Czech criminal code that the country has seen in more than two hundred years, since the days of the Habsburg Empire. Senator Zantovsky feels that although this is somewhat of an exaggeration, it is definitely a step forward:
"It's a major step ahead, I agree with that. But of course, he's the author and the presenter of the bill, so he has to more enthusiastic about it than we in the opposition. I think that in all fairness I would say that it's not a whole step, it's a half step, but it's a step in the right direction."