Pope Francis changes Vatican law, lightens sentences for convicted

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Pope Francis on Tuesday issued a decree allowing Vatican prison sentences to be reduced by up to 120 days for each year served if the convicted person participates in a rehabilitation programme.

The convicted offender must “profitably” participate in a treatment and rehabilitation programme, after first agreeing on such with a judge, to be eligible for the sentence reduction of 45 to 120 days.

The person can, for example, agree to do community service.

Francis also decreed that a trial can be suspended if the defendant can’t appear due to “a legitimate and serious impediment,” an exception that until now hadn’t existed. If defendants refuse to appear without a legitimate reason, their counsel can represent them.

According to the Vatican News portal, before the decree, trials in the absence of the accused were held on the basis of the documents and without defence witnesses.

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Another amendment concerns the second and third instance of judgment: The “promoter of justice” can now appoint the same magistrate who presided over the first instance to also lead the second and third ones.

Previously, the rule said the magistrate from the first trial had to be replaced for the second and third instance trials.

This change should help speed up proceedings, added Vatican News. (dpa/NAN)

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