Minister pushes for speedy justice reform vote

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Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis is eager to see legal system reform make headway, as she urged MPs on Wednesday to establish a working group with the Cyprus Bar Association to discuss the way forward.

Addressing the House Legal Committee on Wednesday, Yiolitis told MPs that the matter needed to be fast-tracked after the committee unanimously snubbed three of the five justice reform bills on July 24.

Cyprus justice is in for a total overhaul after the government tabled several bills to parliament last October, aimed at reorganising the creaking court system.

Presenting the bills before the House Legal Committee, then Justice Minister George Savvides said the reforms were aimed at speeding up processes of the notoriously slow legal system, which he described as a “serious national problem”.

He called on the political parties to do their bit and approve the bills so as to solve the issue and offer the quality of justice that a European country deserves, reminding that Cyprus is ranked towards the bottom in all reports on delivering justice.

Some of the changes include splitting the supreme court into a supreme constitutional court and an appellate court to handle tertiary appeals.

The bills also define the criteria for recruiting, evaluating, and promoting judges, and a school for judges.

Reforms also include creating a commercial court and a small claims court.

Yiolitis told MPs, that the parties must submit their proposals for any amendments to the bills so that deliberations can move forward as soon as possible.

She argued that two years have already passed for consultations, and amendments were considered when the government drafted the bills.

Yiolitis, a lawyer by profession, argued the bills, put to a vote in July, were then returned to the Ministry in an unorthodox fashion, as there were no further suggestions for amending them.

“I am not in favour of sacrificing the quality of the legislation in favour of speed, as these laws will be the backbone of the administration of justice in Cyprus, but time has been already lost.”

Yiolitis noted that Cyprus is at the bottom of a number of EU leagues dealing with justice, especially in terms of time taken to administer justice.

Cyprus ranks among the slowest countries in the world in terms of delivering swift justice according to international institutions.

While the EU average required to complete a case is eight months, Cyprus needs more than 2,500 days.