POPE Francis has updated the Vatican’s legal code to grant reductions in sentences, changes to trials in absentia and streamlining the appeals process.
The changes are outlined in Pope Francis’ motu proprio “Introducing modifications in the area of justice”, that was published yesterday.
The changes come as Vatican officials have been under increased scrutiny over the way they handled finances in the past, including scandals in London real estate and across Italy.
This most recent swathe of changes to the legal code have been seen as positive steps.
The first article sets parameters to reduce sentencing by 45 to 120 days for each year of a restrictive sentence already served by an offender with behaviour that shows “repentance” and when an offender has participated in treatment and rehabilitation.
It also allows for offenders to draw up mutually agreed terms of treatment and rehabilitation with the judge.
Previous legislation did not provide for any of these initiatives.
The second article abolishes a type of trial in absentia that negatively impacts the defendant if they do not appear at the trial.
Previously, if the accused did not appear, the trial took place on the basis of the documentation provided, without the admission of testimony for the defence.
Now, with the recent changes, a defendant may call on their counsel to defend them.
And if the defendant is unable to appear due to a legitimate impediment, or due to insanity, then the judge is required to suspend the trial.
Another amendment helps speed up the appeals process by allowing for the same office to appear for the prosecution at multiple levels of judgment.