Greece’s relevant justice minister on Tuesday unveiled a long-awaited draft bill foreseeing stricter sentences for a bevy of offences committed in the country, including arson and vehicular manslaughter.
The draft legislation comes in response to heated debate in the east Mediterranean country over rising crime rates, lenient sentencing and a wholly inefficient parole system, with ruling New Democracy (ND) having promised a stricter penal code even before the conservative party won the 2019 general election.
The bill also includes provisions to speed up trials at all levels as well as to curb litigiousness and frivolous lawsuits, as hundreds of thousands of civil suits are filed every year in the country.
In presenting the bill, Justice Minister Giorgos Floridis said the voluminous legislation directly aims to overcome a widespread belief in Greek society of instances of lawlessness.
Among others, Floridis said jail sentences handed down by courts that prescribe more than three years of incarceration will be immediately executed, instead of the current regime whereby a convicted defendant is freed pending appeal – a process that may take years.
In a bid to speed up court proceedings, Floridis said only one continuance will be allowed, while fines will be imposed on “serial litigants”.
The provisions will become law if ratified by a majority of Parliament MPs, although amendments and modifications are likely during debate at the committee level and in the plenum.
Other highlights of the bill are an increase in the maximum sentence for various felonies, from the current 15 years to 20 years; 20 to 25 years for a conviction on multiple felony counts. The maximum sentence for a conviction on multiple misdemeanor counts increases to 10 years from the current eight. The bill did not reinstate the concept of a life sentence, which was ditched decades ago.
Parole conditions are also made stricter, with the parolee’s crime taken into account, along with specific characteristics of the inmate petitioning for release.
Additionally, an immediate trial is foreseen for serious crimes, such as arson of a forest or disrupting transport safety, as the intermediary judicial council level is eliminated.
Defendants convicted of negligent arson will also face a stiffer sentence, while those convicted of intentional arson will face a fine of 200,000 euros or even confiscation of assets up to the level of the damage caused, along with jail time. “Serial” litigants will face a fine of up to 1,500 euros and possible criminal charges.
Finally, remote testimony – via various online platforms – will finally be allowed when the individual giving the testimony is unable to appear in court in person, or when there is a risk of a statute of limitation expiring.