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Politics

Mitsotakis Moves to Speed Greece’s Snails Pace Clogged Court System

ATHENS – Greece’s notoriously slow judicial system – cases can take a decade or more to be heard and some judges were disciplined for refusing to work on them – will be accelerated, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

He told Parliament that a measure filed by his New Democracy government, which has a majority of lawmakers, will see cases “finalized within 600 to 650 days,” still up to two years as courts have limited working hours.

The “correct and fast administration of justice is an integral part of liberal democracy,” he said, noting that the bill that will merge district and First Instance courts nationally, will speed cases by 30 percent.

He noted this isn’t the first time that a government has tried to get the courts to work faster, facing resistance from the judiciary, with a former Conservative government in 1999 trying to introduce reforms – a quarter century ago.

He said that the delays had raised suspicions the fix is in for some defendants and brought skepticism about the rule of law being equal and letting conspiracy theories gain ground.

He said there’s enough staff. “We have a lot of judges and a great delay in administering justice. In the first degree, we have two kinds of courts. The result is that 154 district courts become a factor in the uneven distribution of court cases.”

He said 44 percent of judges are dealing with just 20 percent of judicial cases. “District court judges assume a very low number when the First Instance court judge takes on 300 cases,” he said, making it difficult to do the work.

Nearly 100 district court judges will be upgraded to First-Instance court judges, he noted, without offering details about how even in that case they could be pushed to work instead of burying cases as happens often.

“There was extensive dialogue during the public consultation. Many views were incorporated. I will insist on the developmental and social nature of this reform. Justice that is delayed becomes unfair,” he said.

He pointed to outrage over the lenient sentences given to six people convicted over their role in July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 104 people and nearly wiped out the seaside village of Mati. Fifteen others were cleared completely.

“The offenses were judged on the basis of a more lenient framework that was in effect during SYRIZA’s rule. If they were judged in the framework we voted for, the sentences would have been stricter,” he said.

He added: “It is true there was a great delay … confidence must not be harmed. The rulings for Mati were neither final, nor irrevocable. They can, if justice so decides, be re-examined,” although the statute of limitations is close to running out in the cases.

He said the fires led his government to establish a civil protection system with an emergency 112 number and text message warnings for disasters not in place under SYRIZA, noted the state’s Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA.

He didn’t say why it took his government more than 4 ½ years and into his second term to move to change the SYRIZA leniency laws that made misdemeanors of even deadly felonies, leading to the convicted defendants buying out jail time.

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