Monday, October 10, 2005

Laws apply to other people

Just when I think the Bush administration is about as corrupt as you can get in a western democracy, I'm reminded that there are worse. Specifically, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi. Faced with a close friend and key supporter (who knows where the bodies are buried) being found guilty on corruption charges, he is legislating to lower Italy's statute of limitations. In New Zealand, the statute of limitations is a limit on charging people - if the time is up, charges cannot be laid. But in Italy, it's a limit on conviction: someone cannot be finally convicted of a crime if the limitation period has expired. Final conviction only occurs after appeals are exhausted, and they are common, so it is not unusual in Italy for an appeal court to declare that "the charges correspond to fact, but are extinguished by the statute of limitations."

Berlusconi's law would halve the limitation period for serious crimes. This would mean that his friend would walk. However, according to Italy's Court of Cassation, it also means that half of all the serious cases before the courts would have to be thrown out. This means that people will - literally - get away with murder - not to mention corruption, sexual abuse, and serious assault. Longer-term, it may make it virtually impossible to prosecute these crimes, as the time limit will now be much shorter than the expected length of the process.

Even if the law change did not have these effects, this would still be a shameless manipulation of the legal process to benefit an ally, and a gross interference in the process of justice. But the fact that he is willing to throw the entire legal system into chaos to save a crony shows that Berlusconi really has no limits on what he will do; he really seems to think that the law only applies to other people, and that he and his friends should be allowed to get away with whatever they want. The fact that such a man is (once again) in charge of a major European nation is simply frightening.


And he is such good friends with Tony Blair too...

Posted by Anonymous : 10/10/2005 06:49:00 PM

I have to say Anon, having lived in England for a few years, Blair is the slimiest piece of work I've come across. It's amazing however many minion Labour supporters he has. Then again I do generally find that Labour supporters are very prone to respecting authority, in NZ and UK.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/12/2005 09:31:00 AM