By Yannis Marinos

Criminals will undoubtedly welcome with hymns of resurrection the draft of the new penal code which was recently made public and is scheduled to be approved by Parliament in the immediate future.

Some of the provisions that caused a backlash were improved by the justice ministry.

However, because the precedent of the notorious law introduced by former justice minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos, which opened the gates of prisons for thousands of inmates serving long terms, and the kid gloves treatment of the N17 terrorist organisation’s top gun Dimitris Koufodinas are anything but reassuring, it would be well to take note of some of the incredible provisions of the new penal code.

  • The provision to make many felonies simple misdemeanours will lead to closing about 4,500 felony cases. Thousands of cases involving theft, embezzlement, fraud, and breach of duty will simply disappear.
  • No thief or fraudster will be prosecuted unless the victim files suit. For example if a policeman sees people robbing a shop, a car, or a house when their owners are absent he or she will not be able to intervene unless the victim requests that. Also, if a mayor is stealing from the municipality, he or she must file suit against themselves! That is because the crime of breach of duty is prosecuted only when someone files suit.
  • In cases of negligent homicide (involuntary manslaughter) with many victims the ten-year maximum sentence will be reduced to five years. When someone makes Molotov cocktails to commit arson or even murders (as occurred at Marfin Bank in central Athens during a protest march), he or she will be charged with a misdemeanor and quite possibly will be sentenced to community service – which means no penalty as the state lacks community service structures. Those already charged with making Molotov cocktails will be set free.
  • The crime of establishing and participating in a gang which is now a felony will become a misdemeanor and so prosecution of such cases will be halted and those imprisoned for that crime will be released. All crimes that are described by special laws and are punishable with a ten-year prison term will become misdemeanours and will essentially be written off due to the statute of limitations. Those crimes include major tax evasion and tax avoidance committed with forged or bogus invoices.

If one excludes the reduction of truly inordinately long sentences for certain crimes and the curbing of the cottage industry of trial postponements, which are welcome provisions, former minister Yorgos Floridis’ statement that he is “surprised by the conspiracy of silence about all that is being prepared” is right on target.

Will the first left-wing government lead us in a paradise of protected lawlessness”? If this penal code is passed hastily by Parliament, it will be too late to correct it.