Talking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) about his plans for speeding up the delivery of justice in Greece, Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis on Sunday promised action to finally activate the institution of out-of-court settlements and introduce administrative penalties, such as fines, in the case of minor offences that do not necessarily have to go before a court.
“The great delay in trying cases is an open wound for justice and has effectively become a denial of justice,” he said. The thousands of cases now clogging the courts meant that people no longer saw justice as a way of settling disputes or a refuge for the wronged but an “arduous and sometimes endless process”.
In addition to shaking their faith in justice, it led people to take the law into their own hands and disrupted the peace, Kontonis said.
The minister said the effort was now focused on updating trial law and the penal code so that they met current needs and standards, including the provisions for out-of-court settlements. “It is inconceivable that the institution of out-of-court settlement has for 15 years…produced no meaningful result,” he noted.
The ministry was also examining and would soon begin a period of public consultation on a series of proposals for processing cases that do not necessarily have to go before the courts, such as divorces by mutual consent or matters that could be dealt with by imposing administrative fines.
“We have much to do and an awareness that it must be done quickly,” Kontonis said.
Asked about the cause of the delays, the minister denied that judges were to blame and said the problem was the long delay between filing a law suit and getting a trial date. This would not be resolved by more disciplinary measures against “errant” judges but “meaningful legislative intervention,” he added.
“I am certain that by the end of the four years, the current unacceptable situation will have been fully reversed,” he said.