Slovakia Softens Punishments for Drug Users

A May amendment to the Criminal Code allows suspended sentences, but only only for the possession of a drug for personal use, and if its amount does not exceed ten times a usual doze. The opposition criticised this move as playing into the hands of drug dealers.

Unlike in the neighbouring Czech Republic, there is a risk of prosecution for the possession of even a small amount of drugs in Slovakia.

Under the new bill, which is to take effect in summer, a suspended sentence may also go to a person who was caught with a bigger amount of drugs, a delict that is punished with four to ten years in prison now. ”The law aims to prevent the imprisonments of those whose jailing is inappropriate,” Tomas Borec, justice minister in Robert Fico’s (Smer-Social Democracy) one-party cabinet that has a comfortable majority in parliament, told the deputies.

He said the present law severely afflicts a number of young people who are mere drug users but were caught with a bigger amount of drug than what is viewed as admissible for personal need. “The present law approaches such people as drug dealers,” Borec said.

Some opposition deputies, however, said the softening of punishments will also help drug dealers, who, if tried, could also escape with mere suspended sentences. “If you seek liberalisation you should decide that keeping a drug amount for a single use would not be a crime. This would be a solution,” said Gabor Gal, a deputy for the opposition party Most-Hid. Former interior minister Daniel Lipsic, on his part, said the new amendment will lead to an increase in the number of cases of drug dealers escaping prison punishment.

Last year, Slovak courts punished 769 people for possessing drugs for personal use. Other people, over 600 of them, were convicted of keeping a larger amount and received tougher punishments applying mainly to drug producers and dealers. The Justice Ministry said the forthcoming softening of punishment for drug delicts is the first of a series of steps to be taken in this area. It said it is considering reducing punishments for soft drug users.

Slovakia is also to change the method of assessing drug delicts. At present, local courts do not focus on the amount of the drug seized but on the number of dozes that can be produced from it. Under the planned new rules, only the amount of the drug and its concentration are to be taken into account.




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