ATHENS – A common practice in Greece: people convicted even of serious crimes, after years of delays in trials, then set free with suspended sentences will be changed under a measure being prepared by the Justice Ministry.
Justice Minister Konstantinos Tsiaras is reportedly working on a new package to reform laws and leniency to end those convicted of getting off essentially scot-free and allowed to go home instead of jail.
With courts rarely working long hours, cases can take a decade or longer to be resolved – that of the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn that resulted in convictions for its leaders and dozens of members taking five years.
The rich, including politicians convicted of financial crimes, can also buy out jail time for as little as 5 euros ($5.68) a day to avoid serving any time and even those jailed of serious crimes are often released early, especially if they cite medical conditions.
“Criminal sanctions have become, for most crimes – even for serious felonies – financial and often on paper only, creating a feeling of impunity among citizens, with all that this entails for social cohesion and the rule of law,” said Kathimerini in a report.
The paper noted that when sentences are given, including long terms such as 10 years in prison for serious or violent crimes, most of those convicted find them suspended – and they’re not even required to show up in court.
The ministry reforms, the paper said, are aimed at seeing people go to jail instead of home even though many serious crimes were downgraded by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA to misdemeanors instead of felonies.