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Czech Government in favor of misdemeanor registry to help fight petty crime

Prague, 15.2.2012 20:48, (ROMEA)

The Czech Government believes that establishing a registry of misdemeanor petty crimes involving property and other matters will create an effective tool for the fight against such misdemeanors, which if repeated three times would be classed as felonies under new legislation. Czech Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil (Civic Democrats - ODS) told journalists today that the cabinet has agreed with an analysis of the issue that has been submitted to it and that the Government will propose legislation in the spring to introduce such a registry.

The minister emphasized that the cabinet's debate of the conceptual material was very detailed. "The Government considers this an important matter, particularly in the area of crimes involving property. This device should be an effective tool in the fight against such petty crime," Pospíšil said.

The Czech Justice Ministry is advocating for those who repeatedly commit misdemeanors to be punished more severely. Pospíšil said such punishments should primarily be alternative in nature, involving fines or community service. He said the number of persons in prison should not increase.

The files, which would be kept only for the kinds of misdemeanors that could be considered felonies after three repetitions, should start as of mid-2013. The Justice Ministry presumes it will cost roughly CZK 30 million to set the system up.

The new legislation would define repeated offenses against property, against public order, and against civil coexistence as felonies. The determination of whether misdemeanors such as shoplifting, embezzlement or fraud should be considered felonies would depend on the monetary damage caused. Petty thieves, for example, could also be prosecuted for repeat offenses.

Theft is currently considered a felony in cases where the monetary damage exceeds CZK 5 000. However, the new law would keep a running tab of the damages caused by a perpetrator. For example, if someone stole items worth CZK 2 000 three separate times, the total amount would exceed the CZK 5 000 limit and the offense would be considered a felony.

Misdemeanors against public order, such as disturbing nighttime quiet or causing a public disturbance, would also be subjected to the "three times and you're out" rule. Once someone committed this type of misdemeanor a third time, it would be considered a felony. The ministry also includes defamation as a misdemeanor against civil coexistence.

The misdemeanor registry is one of the priorities of the Czech Government's anti-corruption strategy. Politicians from the governing parties started reviewing the option of maintaining files on misdemeanors several months ago, discussing it particularly in response to the escalation of tensions at the end of last summer between members of the majority population and Romani people in North Bohemia. Czech PM Petr Nečas (ODS) had previously advocated the creation of such a registry.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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