The special committee on the amending of the judicial laws adopted on Monday, in a 115-7 vote, its report on the bill amending the Criminal Code, a bill that will be put up for vote within the Senate on Tuesday.
The committee adopted the amending of Article 297 on abuse of office, so that the offence will not be punishable if the damage caused does not exceed the gross minimum salary – RON 1,900. Moreover, a guilty act is considered abuse of office if the purpose is to obtain undue material benefits for self, spouse, or relatives up to the second degree. During the debates, House lawmaker Oana Florea (PSD) proposed the abrogation of abuse of office. Likewise, the special committee has eliminated from the sphere of the abuse of office offence the Parliament and Government’s act of drafting, issuing, or approving legislative acts, and Article 298 on negligence resulting in breach of duty was abrogated. At the same time, the committee decided to modify the Criminal Code’s definition of crime ring, in the sense that the group that is formed occasionally to immediately commit one or several offences, and that has no continuity, does not represent a crime ring.
Among the modifications having receiving the committee’s approval were the possibility of parole, provided that half a sentence is already served, instead of two thirds as it is now, in cases where sentence refers to less than 10-year detention.
Another modification refers to the convicts who have reached the age of 60, who can benefit from parole, provided that he/she has already served at least one third of his/her detention time, in cases that the entire detention time is supposed to be, according to the sentence, of less than 10 years, or at least half of the sentence, in the case of more than 10-year detention sentences.
One of the modification brought on Monday refers to abuse of office, in the sense that the threshold for this offence has been established at the level of the minimum gross wage per economy.
“The public servant’s offence, committee during business hours, which are expressly regulated through laws, GEOs or government ordinances, who refuses to perform an act or performs it by violating the respective regulations, expressed provisions of a law, government ordinance or GEO, in order to obtain for himself/herself, wife/husband, including up to second-degrees relatives or in-laws, an undue material benefit, and by this causing a clear and effective damage, higher than the minimum gross wage per economy, or a violation of the rights and legitimate non-patrimonial interests of an individual or legal entity, he/she shall be punished with time in prison, from 2 up to 5 years or with a fine,” says the amendment.
Moreover, the majority of the MPs from the committee voted in favour of an amendment referring the abrogation of the article on negligence in the workplace.
USR’s Ion: Abuse of office threshold proposal correct, but law context critical
Deputy of the Save Romania Union (USR) Stelian Ion, speaking on Monday at the RFI radio broadcaster, said that Justice Minister Tudorel Toader’s proposal to introduce in the Criminal Code a threshold representing the equivalent to the gross minimum wage for abuse of office is correct, but lacks argumentation.
“These debates have started more than nine months ago, when this committee was set up, and the Ministry of Justice has not yet officially sent any opinion at all. Despite information having emerged last Thursday about a threshold having been established by the Ministry of Justice, not even today has the committee received a written and reasoned point of view, yet we have all seen Justice Minister Tudorel Toader live at two TV shows yesterday stating that the threshold has finally been determined to be the equivalent of a minimum national wage,” Stelian Ion, deputy chairman of the select committee on the judiciary package, told RFI.
Asked if he considers the proposal of the Minister of Justice to be right, Stelian Ion said: “Yes, it just seems correct to us, only that we have no argument from the Ministry. It is very important to see the arguments behind this choice.”
Stelian Ion also explained that the Justice Minister did not say whether this is the only change he plans to the text that criminalizes abuse of office.
“The Minister of Justice did not tell us whether this is the only change he wants to bring to this text that criminalizes abuse of office, because he may want to introduce a threshold while at the same time making other changes regarding the conditions for holding someone criminally liable for abuse of office (…) If, in order to be considered an offense the deed must be perpetrated for a material gain for self, things change radically, regardless if there is a threshold or not, so we need to be very careful to not have on our hands a much worse variant than the one we thought of from the very beginning, with a high threshold,” said Stelian Ion.
On Sunday, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader announced that the Justice Ministry had proposed a threshold for abuse of office, representing the equivalent of the gross national minimum wage.
“We considered – and this is our proposal – that the threshold should be the equivalent of the national minimum wage, not the net, but the gross amount. We have a representative of the Ministry of Justice in the select committee. (…) We have already sent this proposal. If the value of the damage is below this threshold, this means that the respective crime does not represent a social danger and the deed does not fall within the scope of the criminal offense, it remains only in the sphere of the disciplinary illegality. If the value of the damage is higher than the minimum wage, the criminal liability is engaged, but the judge – the prosecutor too, but the judge in particular – has instruments to individualize the punishment, on the one hand the execution of the sentence, but he can also decide to postpone the execution of the punishment,” Toader said on Sunday at RTV.