Parliament approved on February 9 with its first reading amendments to the criminal procedure code changing rule of consecutive sentencing and increasing minimal age of criminal responsibility from 12 to 14.
According to one of the amendments current rule of consecutive sentencing will be changed and a defendant, facing charges on multiple counts, will receive longest of the separate sentences in full for the gravest offense and half of the sentences for other offenses. The amendment leaves it to judge’s discretion to impose consecutive sentences in full depending on the gravity of other offenses. But it will be also up to judge to halve sentences for offenses – other than the gravest one – taking into account mitigating circumstances and a defendant’s record.
Human Rights Watch said in its recent report that “frequent use of consecutive custodial sentencing is largely responsible” for the problem of prison overcrowding and increased number of inmates in Georgia.
In another amendment, minimal age of criminal responsibility will go up from 12 to 14 after the draft is approved with its second and third readings.
Georgia lowered the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 in 2007, triggering human rights groups’ criticism.
The provision entered into force in July 2008, however in fact it has never been put into practice. The Justice Ministry issued a moratorium on implementation of the law until the creation of a separate juvenile justice system for young offenders.
While presenting these amendments to the Parliament on February 9, chief prosecutor, Murtaz Zodelava, said that as a result of “correct and strict” policy in recent years it was possible to significantly decrease crime rate in Georgia and it was now possible “to liberalize” criminal justice policy.