Pope updates Vatican legal code

(ANSA) – VATICAN CITY, FEB 16 – Pope Francis on Tuesday
updated the Vatican legal code.
    Francis’ motu proprio Recante modifiche in materia di giustizia
(“Introducing modifications in the area of justice”), published
on Tuesday, provides for reduction of sentences, the possibility
of agreeing on a programme of community service and voluntary
work, and suspension of trials in cases of legitimate impediment
on the part of the defendant, Vatican News reported.
    The new regulations update the criminal justice system of
Vatican state and remodels norms in order to respond to the
needs of the times and establishes procedures for penalties
aimed at the rehabilitation of offenders.
    “The exigencies that have emerged, even recently, in the field
of criminal justice,” Pope Francis writes, “with the consequent
repercussions on the activity of those who, in various
capacities, are involved, require constant attention to reshape
the current substantive and procedural legislation that, in some
respects, is affected by guiding principles and functional
solutions that are now outdated.” For these reasons, the Pope
has published three new articles of the law, “continuing the
process of the ongoing revision dictated by the changing
sensibilities of the times.”
The first article makes changes to the penal code and
establishes a reduction of 45 to 120 days for each year of a
restrictive sentence already served for convicted offenders who,
during the execution of their sentence, “have behaved in such a
way as to presume their repentance and have profitably
participated in the programme of treatment and rehabilitation.”
When the sentence takes effect, the offender shall draw up, in
agreement with the judge, “a treatment and rehabilitation
programme containing an indication of the specific commitments
he will undertake to avoid or mitigate the consequences of the
offence, taking into account, to this end, compensation for
damage, reparation and restitution.” The convicted person may
propose “the performance of work in the public interest, or
voluntary activities of social importance; as well as conduct
aimed at promoting, where possible, mediation with the offended
person.” Previous legislation did not provide for any of these
initiatives.
    The second article amends the code for penal procedures,
maintaining safeguards, while abolishing the so-called “processo
in contumacia,” [a particular form of trial in absentia] which
was still present in the Vatican Code: if the accused did not
appear, the trial took place on the basis of the documentation
provided, without the admission of testimony for the defence.
    Now, however, if the defendant refuses to attend the hearing
without a legitimate impediment being demonstrated, the normal
trial will proceed, with the defendant being represented by his
defence counsel. If, on the other hand, the defendant does not
appear at the hearing and it is proved that he is unable to
appear “due to a legitimate and serious impediment, or if due to
insanity he is unable to provide for his defence,” the tribunal
or the single judge is required to suspend the trial.
    The third article amends and supplements law CCCLI of the
judicial system of the Vatican City State. It stipulates that
ordinary magistrates at the time of retirement shall retain “all
rights, assistance, welfare and guarantees provided” for Vatican
citizens. A paragraph underlines that “the office of the
promoter of justice shall exercise autonomously and
independently, in the three levels of judgement, the functions
of the public prosecutor and the other functions assigned to him
by law.”
Finally, an important amendment concerns the second and third
instance of judgment. Until now, in the event of an appeal and
then in cassation, the public prosecutor was to be represented
by a different magistrate from the one who led the prosecution
in the first trial, with an ad hoc appointment for second and
third instance trials. Now, instead, two different articles
stipulate that in appeal and cassation proceedings, as is
already the case in the first instance, the functions of the
public prosecutor are to be performed by a magistrate from the
office of the promoter of justice, designated by the promoter
himself. The panel of judges will obviously remain different.
    This legislation tends to speed up proceedings, since from now
on it will be the same office that sustained the public
prosecution in the first instance that will also sustain it in
any other levels of judgement. (ANSA).
   

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