Conte says will back justice reform after Draghi talks

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Ansa – New 5-Star Movement (M5S) leader and ex-premier Giuseppe Conte on Monday said the anti-establishment movement would back the government’s justice reform after keenly awaited talks with Premier Mario Draghi. Conte earlier this month criticised the reform of Italy’s criminal justice system.

The reform, which aims to speed up Italy’s notoriously slow criminal trials, a demand the European Commission has made for the arrival of EU Recovery Fund cash, was unanimously approved by cabinet, although the M5S only backed it reluctantly due to reservations about changes to the statute of limitations. This is because it effectively waters down a reform passed by Alfonso Bonafede, a M5S lawmaker who was the justice minister in Conte’s two coalition governments from June 2018 until the start of this year. Bonafede’s reform puts the statue of limitations on hold after the first-instance ruling in order to stop criminals getting off because their cases get timed out due to the slowness of the legal system.

While the new reform by current Justice Minister Marta Cartabia does not abolish this, it sets limits for the time it can take appeal courts and the supreme court to rule once they start examining a case that came from a lower court – two years for the appeals courts and one year for the supreme court. It is possible for this to be extended by a year for appeals courts and six months for the supreme court for especially serious or complicated cases.

The M5S voted in favour at cabinet after it managed to get corruption cases classed among those that it is possible to have a longer deadline for. But Conte, whose role as the leader chosen to revamp the M5S was thrown into doubt by a bust-up with founder Beppe Grillo, said on July 9 that he was not satisfied.

“I appreciate the work done by Minister Cartabia, but I wouldn’t start celebrating,” Conte said. “I’m not happy about the statute of limitations. We have gone back to an Italian anomaly”. After his talks with Draghi Monday, however, Conte said he had assured the contribution of the M5S on justice reform. But he reiterated concern about the statute of limitations. “We will give our contribution to speed up trials but we will be very vigilant in averting thresholds of impunity”.

He said there could be possible intervention in parliament to “improve the bill”. But he concluded “let’s put aside political point scoring, we must speak to the Italians”.