Prime Minister Draghi’s coalition government has overcome deep divisions to agree a justice reform bill. The European Union demanded the reform as part of a deal to unlock billions of euros in recovery funds.
Italy’s justice system is dysfunctional and one of the slowest in Europe, but repeated attempts to overhaul it have failed.
The parties which make up Draghi’s government have sharply opposing views. This complicated efforts to improve the situation. However, Justice Minister Marta Cartabia managed to reach a compromise deal late on Thursday. The government hopes the reform will improve efficiency.
“Italy has taken a significant step forward in modernising the justice system and speeding up trials,” said Regional Affairs Minister Mariastella Gelmini, a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.
The draft law will now go to parliament for approval.
Change to statute of limitations
Part of the reform that caused division is another change to the statute of limitations. Currently, a trial automatically halts if a verdict is not reached within a set time limit from when the crime was committed.
There are three degrees of judgment within the justice system. This means defendants can make two appeals.
The 5-Star Movement, has pushed for a long time to remove statutes of limitations once an initial verdict is reached. They argue many offenders, especially white collar criminals, avoid justice by using legal tactics to delay court proceedings.
The compromise reached by Cartabia was to freezing the statute of limitations at the end of the opening trial for a number of crimes, including corruption. However, she included set time curbs on the subsequent appeals that both defendants and prosecutors have a right to pursue.
“I appreciate the work done by Minister Cartabia, but I would not sing victory. I am not happy about the statute of limitations,” said former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who is looking to take control of the splintering 5-Star group.
Among less contested parts of the reform were measures to encourage defendants to seek plea-bargain deals and a norm that should compel prosecutors and preliminary judges to only bring cases to trial where they believe they can secure a conviction.
A reform of civil law is underway.