The Justice and Public Administration Ministry has put to public consultation amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act, the Penal Code and the Act on Prevention of Domestic Violence, proposing stricter penalties for offenders and strengthening victim protection by expanding victims' rights.
The ministry said in a statement on Friday that abandoning an animal is being introduced as a new offence, while penalties for the torture and abuse of animals are made stricter. For the new offence of unauthorised disclosure of the content of an inquiry or evidentiary action the ministry has envisaged penalties for participants in criminal proceedings who disclose information from the proceedings at the stage when access to it is restricted and the public has no access to it.
Changes to the Penal Code introduce aggravated murder of a female person, with the maximum penalty being long-term imprisonment.
Rape and other serious sexual assaults will be punished more severely – with 5 to 12 years of prison.
In order to strengthen the status of victims, they will be entitled to appeal a decision on a restraining order and the competent courts will be expected, in case such a decision is violated, to decide on replacing the restraining order with custody within 24 hours. The police will be given powers to arrest offenders suspected of violating restraining order provisions. Investigative detention will be imposed on offenders who disregard restraining orders, and victims will be informed about the release of offenders from custody.
Also, sexual harassment will be treated as a felony offence and no longer as a misdemeanor and the statute of limitations will be removed for felony sexual assault against children as well as for aggravated murder of a female person.
As for the new offence of unauthorised disclosure of the content of an inquiry or evidentiary action, the ministry notes that the change protects presumption of innocence as a constitutionally guaranteed right, the right to privacy of the suspect and other persons involved in criminal proceedings, objective fact-finding, court autonomy and objectivity, and the right to a fair trial.
It stresses that the amendment in no way violates media freedoms or restricts the right to information of public interest because it does not refer to journalists but exclusively to participants in criminal proceedings, that is, persons working on a case file or with the right of access to it.
The new offence of animal abandonment carries a sentence of one year in prison, and if the animal dies due to abandonment, that carries a sentence of two years in prison. Also, the legislative changes increase penalties for the murder or torture of animals from two to three years in prison.
The ministry also recalled having put to public consultation last week amendments to the Family Act, which strengthen the protection of women and children against violence.