June 26th, 2012

Parliament passes new criminal code; self-defense, responsibility of child offenders among big changes

Hungary’s parliament on Monday approved a stricter criminal code, replacing the current 30-year-old law.

The new legislation is scheduled to take effect on July 1, 2013.

The law was approved with 243 votes for, 45 against and 43 abstentions. The governing parties supported while the Socialists and the green LMP rejected it. Lawmakers of Jobbik abstained from the vote.

State Secretary of Justice Robert Repassy called the new criminal code “just” and “based on the approach that punishment should be proportionate to the crime”.

“The code first of all punishes the crime and takes the perpetrator’s personal conditions into account only in the second place,” he said.

The new criminal code envisages stricter sentences for serious crimes and reoffenders, and enhances the protection of children, the elderly and the handicapped, he said.

The code extends the scope of justifiable self-defence to people attacked at night by armed persons or groups, or armed burglars or gangs breaking and entering property, including gardens.

Under the new code, those serving a life sentence can only be released on probation after 25 years, as against 20 under the present code. The court may declare that the convict can only be released after 40 years, a punishment expected to have a strong retarding force even if the Constitutional Court or an international court bans actual life sentences.

The new code lowers the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 years in the categories of premeditated homicide, voluntary manslaughter and bodily harm leading to death or resulting in life-threatening injuries.

Ten civil groups protested against the latter measure, arguing that calling children to account by penal means without the chance of any assistance or rehabilitation is “cynical, harmful and seriously endangers their future”.

Their statement sent to MTI on Monday was also signed by criminologist professor Katalin Gonczol, a former ombudsman.

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  • Elsbeth

    “lowers the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 years of age”–I wonder if that corresponds to the ideas of the EU? They are aware that the human brain does not fully mature until age 25 years?

  • Pete H.

    Can anyone clarify whether this means you can shoot someone for stealing a tomato out of your garden? If that is the case, the new law lacks any sense of proportionality.

    Agree with Elsbeth, a 12 year old does not even have a fully developed personality and is far for from developing the executive functions that govern impulsive behavior. A 12 or even a 14 year old needs help to rehabilitate and be given a chance for a healthy productive life, not imprisonment. Putting 12 year olds in prison is just throwing them away and making it very likely that they will never have any chance for something better and will remain a burden on society for the rest of their lives.

    • Leto. مؤدّب

      The new regulations extends the scope of justifiable self-defence under these circumstances:

      1. If you are attacked at night by an armed person or groups.
      2. If an armed person, a group, enters your flat or house at night.
      2. If an armed person, a group, enters your garden.


      So from now maybe don’t steal that tomato with a samurai hand in your hand.

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