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  • Editorial: When the judiciary divides

    The mixed judge and jury Appellate Court of Lamia recognised the “prior honourable life” of the Greek Police special guard and overturned his life sentence.

    A court’s reduction of the life prison sentence of Greek Police special officer Epameinondas Korkoneas, who in 2008 murdered for no reason 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos in the Athens neighbourhood of Exarheia, has raised a number of questions and has provoked public opinion.

    The mixed judge and jury Appellate Court of Lamia recognised the “prior honourable life” of the Greek Police special guard and overturned his life sentence.

    The court gave him a new 13-year prison sentence, and on that basis he now has been released from prison.
    Some attributed his release to more lenient provisions in the new criminal code.

    Others insisted that even with the prior penal code the result would have been the same if the Court recognised as it did now the culprit’s “prior honourable life”.

    Others argued differently in criticising the Court.

    They said that due to the profession of the accused, to his training, and to the fact that he had not committed prior criminal acts he should have exhibited greater self-control and that hence he did not deserve leniency.

    Whatever the case may be, once again a judicial decision has divided society, has stirred passions, and has triggered many different reactions.

    Most importantly, the clear judgment of the judges has been disputed and there is a sense that at times judges hand down rulings simply as they like and even contrary to their convictions.

    The issue is whether the judiciary can deliver a just penalty and whether it can be faithfully enforced.

    Nonetheless, independent observers cannot ignore the evolution of our legal system and its adaptation to European norms.

    Distinguished legal scholars concur that after our legal system rightly abolished the death penalty a prison sentence is exhausted during the life of a prisoner, so the prison term for even the most heinous crime cannot be unlimited.

    It must be linked to the correctional objective, true remorse, and the prisoner’s behaviour while in jail.

    Even so, nothing guarantees the correctness of choices and the objective evaluation of facts and criteria.

    That means that the disputation of judicial decisions and choices will continue, will not be eradicated, and will divide society from time to time.

    In that sense, the upgrading of the level of the correctional system, the overhaul of the judicial system, the restructuring of the prison terms system, and the restoration of trust in the judicial system are mandatory and are the only moves that can temper the sense in Greek society of bad judicial reasoning.

    It is no coincidence that judicial reform is viewed by everyone as an issue of the utmost importance in Greece.

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