Italy government

Italian government reaches agreement on contested justice reform

  • The Italian judicial system is a frequent source of disputes
  • The 5 Star Movement, prosecutors, had challenged the reform
  • The statute of limitations was the main sticking point
  • The reform must now be approved in parliament

ROME, July 29 (Reuters) – The Italian government has reached an agreement on a disputed reform of the judicial system, a government spokesman said on Thursday, seemingly ending weeks of friction within Mario’s cross-party coalition Draghi.

For decades justice reform has been the most contentious area of ​​Italian politics, and an overhaul of the system is part of a series of measures Draghi has promised the European Union to unlock billions of euros recovery funds.

The 5 Star Movement, the largest ruling party, had demanded changes to a reform proposed by Justice Minister Marta Cartabia which was approved in cabinet on July 8 but has yet to be passed in parliament.

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Bogged down by the dispute over justice reform, Draghi, who took office in February, has had to slow down other promised reforms to the tax system and competition rules.

The main sticking point of the judicial reform were changes aimed at limiting the length of trials by simply ending them if a final verdict had not been rendered within a given period.

5-Star, along with numerous prosecutors, said Cartabia’s proposal would have truncated tens of thousands of lawsuits, undermined justice, allowed criminals to escape punishment and posed a threat to public safety.

“The cabinet unanimously approved the technical adjustments proposed by the government,” Draghi’s spokesman tweeted after a meeting that lasted most of the day.

As part of the agreement, Cartabia’s proposed changes will not apply equally to offenses related to organized crime, terrorism, sexual violence or drug trafficking, and they will be phased in over a period of three years, according to a government statement.

The Italian judicial system has three levels of judgment, which means that defendants can make two appeals. Many more cases expire under the so-called statute of limitations than in other advanced countries.

The previous government’s 5-star justice minister scrapped prosecution delays once the initial verdict is delivered, arguing that many offenders, especially white-collar criminals, avoid justice by using legal tactics to delay proceedings judicial.

Cartabia’s new reform, aimed at reducing backlogs and speeding up court proceedings, would freeze the statute of limitations at the end of the first trial but set strict deadlines for both appeals.

According to his proposal, which has now been amended in cabinet, if the first appeal was not completed within two years and the second within one year, all cases except those punishable by imprisonment for life, would expire without a verdict, unless the judges granted special dispensation for the trial to continue.

Nicola Gratteri, one of Italy’s best-known anti-Mafia prosecutors, told parliament the reform would have meant 50% of trials would be completed at the appeals stage.

The 5-star leader and former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he was satisfied with the compromise reached.

“It’s not our reform but we have worked constructively to help improve it,” he told reporters.

He added that he was “absolutely confident” that often divided 5-star lawmakers would now support reform in parliament.

Cartabia says it can speed up trials through measures to encourage defendants to seek plea bargain deals and the hiring of thousands of courtroom support staff.

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written by Gavin Jones Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Cynthia Osterman

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