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Deputies debate stricter crime laws

Due to oppostion from the ruling government coalition, the Slovak Parliament voted down an amemdent to the criminal code intended to prolong the 24 hours preliminary custody to 48 hours. The amendment, which was proposed by coalition deputy Robert Fico from the Party of Democratic Left (SDL), would have revised the Constitution, the Penal Code Order, and the law in the preamble in the Chart of the Basic Human Rights and Freedoms.
In interviews after the vote, members of the opposition parties objected to the unwillingness of the ruling coalition to accept Fico's revision. Deputies from the Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Slovak National Party (SNS) argued that the increase of the crime rate in Slovakia and the mounting of the related problems make the change crucial.


Slovak criminal laws will be tougher if deputies approve a new bill.
photo: Ján Kuchta

Due to oppostion from the ruling government coalition, the Slovak Parliament voted down an amemdent to the criminal code intended to prolong the 24 hours preliminary custody to 48 hours. The amendment, which was proposed by coalition deputy Robert Fico from the Party of Democratic Left (SDL), would have revised the Constitution, the Penal Code Order, and the law in the preamble in the Chart of the Basic Human Rights and Freedoms.

In interviews after the vote, members of the opposition parties objected to the unwillingness of the ruling coalition to accept Fico's revision. Deputies from the Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Slovak National Party (SNS) argued that the increase of the crime rate in Slovakia and the mounting of the related problems make the change crucial.

But Ministry of Justice spokesperson Andrea Krajńaková said that Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský had appealed to the deputy clubs not to support Fico's proposal. Reason for this was primarily due to a desire to not change the Constitution before a recently appointed committee for this purpose presents its total report in May.

Krajńaková also noted that the Ministry of Justice thought Fico's proposal insufficient.

On the same day, the Government approved the 'Amendment to the Criminal Code of the Slovak Republic' issued by the Ministry of Justice. According to the introductory essay of the voluminous proposal, the bill is intended to strenghten the legal means by which it will be possible to wage the fight against "organized crime, corruption, drug dealing, child pornography and the newly flourishing forms of white-collar crime."

The amendment is also meant to move the Slovak code closer to internationally accepted norms. It is scheduled to be debated in Parliament starting in the middle of May.

Citing the recent defeat of Fico's crime bill, HZDS deputy Katarina Tóthová expressed her deep scepticism about the ability of the current government to carry out these changes.

"Without a change in the Constitution it will not be possible to pass the Criminal Code, and the existing variety of opinions within the coalition lead me to believe that it will not be in their power to unify for this decision." Tóthová also noted that similar proposals [to extend the custody of a suspect person to 48 hours] were made in 1998 under Mečiar's administration but the government then was not able to push the bill through the voting requirements.

Tóthová said that she thinks that the new Amendment of the Criminal Code would be a great contribution and that she will definitely support the proposal.

As the deputies have not yet received the proposed version of the amendment, Party of Civic Reconciliation (SOP) deputy Peter Kresák was reluctant to express his opinion about the details of the bill. In general terms, however, Kresák is convinced that a more specific crimina code is undoubtely needed at the stage in which the Slovak society is finding itself at the moment.

The proposed crime code revisions are very specific about many fields of criminal activities. One of them is a detailed article about child pornography, a crime which has so far fallen been defined only under a general Slovak law relating to morality.

Another novelty in the proposed code is that it would establishing an institute of secret agents who would be charged with investigating corruption in business and government.

According to Čarnogurský, the agents are mainly expected to "penetrate criminal groups, reveal corruption and the misuse of public authority."

Demanders of protection money can be sentenced to 3-10 years imprisonment according to the new amendment.

SITA contributed to this story

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