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Czech lower house upholds temporary bans on local residency for perpetrators of certain misdemeanors

Prague, 6.6.2012 19:34, (ROMEA)

Yesterday the Czech lower house upheld the institution of temporary bans on local residency for the perpetrators of certain misdemeanors, overriding the Czech Senate's previous veto. The MPs' amendment to the law on misdemeanors, which was proposed by the former mayor of Chomutov, now Czech MP Ivana Řápková (Civic Democrats - ODS), is now ready to be signed by the Czech President. Critics of the bill say it is unconstitutional.

According to the amendment, local authorities would be able to ban persons from residing on their territories for up to three months should they repeatedly commit certain misdemeanors such as begging, the consumption of alcohol, or prostitution in areas where such behaviors are banned by municipal decree. The sanctions cannot be applied by the town or district in which a misdemeanor offender is registered as a permanent resident.

Persons who violate the ban would be obstructing the performance of an official decision. The authorities will also be granted the power to cut the duration of the residency ban by up to one-half.

Currently, local authorities can fine persons who commit misdemeanors. According to those who submitted the amendment, such fines cannot be collected from perpetrators whose only income is welfare. Czech MP Řápková has advocated adoption of the amendment, but Czech MP Stanislav Křeček (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) called it an ineffective, unfinished experiment which will clutter up the legal code.

A total of 105 MPs voted in favor of upholding the amendment. Only 101 votes were needed. Of the ČSSD MPs, 36 voted against the amendment and 14 abstained. Of the ODS MPs, 50 voted for the amendment, including Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas and the chair of the lower house, Miroslava Němcová, and only one ODS MP abstained. Of the TOP09 MPs, 37 voted in favor of the amendment and three abstained. Of the Public Affairs (VV) MPs, a total of nine voted for the amendment, including former interior minister Radek John and former education minister Josef Dobeš, and two abstained. Of the Unaffiliated (Nezařazené) MPs, former Prague Mayor Pavel Bém abstained, while former Prime Minister Jiří Paroubek and MP Jiří Šlégr voted against the amendment. MPs Kristýna Kočí, Karolína Peak and Jaroslav Škárka were for it.

Critics of the bill claim the law contravenes the Constitution by interfering with freedom of movement and will simply shift the problem of recidivist misdemeanor offenders into other municipalities. Some senators have already announced that if the amendment comes into force they will file a complaint against it with the Constitutional Court.

The amendment also defines the "nighttime quiet" period as lasting from 22:00 until 06:00. Municipalities would be able to adopt decrees establishing exceptions to this definition, either shortening it or ruling that it does not apply at all in certain areas.

František Bikár, ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Press Agency, ceskenoviny.cz, brf, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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