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Parliament prepares to vote on new criminal code

ON Tuesday 8 February, parliament will begin voting on one of the most controversial acts of recent years, the new version of the criminal code, drafted by Daniel Lipšic's team at the Ministry of Justice.

The Criminal Justice Act and Procedures bill has many opponents and more than 550 amendments have been proposed.

The amendments will be voted on first and before a final vote on the full text it will be necessary to ensure no contradictions have been introduced into the law.

The aim of the reform, according to Lipšic, is to protect all those who respect the law, to punish those who break it more severely and to simplify and speed up criminal proceedings.

Among the most controversial provisions are the introduction of criminal proceedings against corporations, and the introduction of public defenders to replace private lawyers representing clients eligible for legal aid. Also controversial is the omission of any ban on "hate speech".

On February 7, Roma organizations lobbied in parliament for the retention of legislation that outlaws the defamation of national, racial and ethnic groups and religions, the incitement of national, racial or class hatred and the denial of fascist crimes such as the holocaust. They fear that verbal assaults on Roma will increase sharply if they are decriminalised.

Another group lobbying against the law is the Slovak Bar Association, which wants to block criminal proceedings against corporations.

Lipšic argues that these are necessary by citing corporate Ponzi schemes that have cost Slovak investors millions of crowns. Law enforcers were powerless to seize the assets of these companies because only the directors of the company, rather than the company itself, could be prosecuted.

The Bar Association argues that the additional powers are unnecessary and that the courts already have sufficient powers to control rogue companies.

Lawyers are also concerned about the risk of introducing public defenders, whose independence will be questionable, and the possibility that young people will be sentenced to life imprisonment from the age of fourteen.

Lipšic hopes that the laws can be passed quickly so that lobbyists will not be able to influence them unduly.

He also refused to rule out withdrawing the bill if lawmakers tried to use amendments to remove existing parts of the criminal code such as the use of agents provocateurs and the laws against criminal and terrorist organizations.

Compiled by Roger Heyes from press reports
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