Czech Parliament to make crucial changes to the Criminal Code

15-10-2004

Czech Parliament is discussing an amendment to the country's Criminal Code, now more than 40 years old. The main purpose of the amendment is above all to hit perpetrators of violent crimes like murder or robbery with more serious sentences. While now the limit for imprisonment was 25 years, apart from exceptional life sentences, in the future it could be raised by five years. There are also quite a few entirely new crimes defined like terrorist attacks or prostitution endangering moral development of children, in other words, prostitution in school localities.

I am now joined in the studio by my colleague Martin Mikule who's been following the story. He'll tell us about other changes in store, and indeed whether or not the amendment has a good chance of being passed.

"First, concerning the chance of the amendment being passed it is still difficult to say: at the moment the bill has proceeded to second reading but there is still a lot of heated debate going on, particularly because there are so many new additions to the Criminal Code. Apart from those you mentioned, there is for example euthanasia, the cloning of human beings or child pornography distribution. But, what I think is really revolutionary is the stress on stronger sentences for brutally violent crimes. I think in this point our legislators are pretty united because they want to stress that the protection of a human life is crucial and has priority even above the protection of property."

You mentioned Euthanasia. If the Criminal Code did not account for Euthanasia as crime, how was the act punished till now?

"Until now any kind of intentional killing of a human being - even requested - was considered murder, but the new amendment introduces a new legal paragraph called "Putting to death on demand". According to the bill the crime would be treated more lightly than murder. For such an act one would get a maximum of 6 years."

It will probably be no surprise that a lot of the fuss will be precisely over euthanasia, won't it?

"Exactly. Particularly the conservative Christian Democrats disagree with euthanasia being treated more lightly, as they are afraid it could be abused. Their opponents, however, say that it is important to distinguish between, say, aiding a terminally-ill senior end their life as compared to vicious or pre-meditated killing for profit."

A widely discussed issue recently was the criminal liability of children, seen as too lax by some. Does the amendment bring any changes there?

"Till now the age of liability started at 15 and surprisingly, there is no mention about any changes regarding it in the current legislation. However, many MP's would like to see it added and Justice Minister Pavel Nemec himself has said that he would push for lowering the age of accountability to 14 years of age. In cases of very serious crimes even to 12. As I said, it's still a matter of debate and given the bill had trouble making it to a second reading you can be sure there will still be a lot of deliberation ahead before any amendment is approved."

15-10-2004