Proposed amendment seeks to encourage crime gang members to inform on colleagues

09-02-2005

Since the fall of communism, the Czech police have had to respond to a huge increase in organised crime, often involving international crime gangs. In order to tackle the problem, a group of MPs has put forward new legislation aimed at breaking up such groups - they want to encourage gang members to give evidence against their colleagues.

A group of government MPs is proposing an amendment which would allow the police to bargain with criminals, offering them, for instance, reduced sentences if they provide evidence against other gang members. One of the bill's backers is Social Democrat MP Radim Turek; he says other countries in the region have already implemented similar legislation.

"These kinds of provisions exist in some other neighbouring post-communist countries, such as Poland and Slovakia, which introduced them only recently. They got the idea from countries like Germany and Italy. We have very good reports from Poland that the police have managed to solve a number of crimes this way."

Radim Turek sees many benefits in this proposed amendment to the criminal code.

"We believe that such mechanisms provide a better tool for the police, prosecutors and judges. It would be easier for judges to deal with such cases, and they would have more room to consider if defendants are guilty. Of course, criminals would not see all accusations against them dropped. In the case of serious crimes like murder, they would simply receive a shorter sentence."

Judge Pavel Samal from the Supreme Court says there are some advantages to this idea, but he does not give it his whole-hearted backing.

"My attitude to this issue is rather indifferent. It is a very complicated issue. I understand why the police are pushing for these powers, because it would help them fight organised crime. But on the other hand it is very hard for a judge to evaluate the testimony of somebody who has been involved in organised crime. If this change comes into effect, judges will have a rather reserved attitude towards it. So they will not be the main lobbyist for its enactment."

Given the fact there are strongly differing views on this legislation, we can expect a long and hotly-contested debate in the lower house in the next few days.

09-02-2005