By Humphrey Carter

THE Balearics' first “fast-track” court hearings were heard in Palma yesterday, just hours after the new judicial system came into effect.
Three fast track cases opened at the Palma law courts, both for alcohol-related offences. But they were unable to be concluded as quickly as expected because the special fast track courts which have been set up in Via Alemania are not completed, with the connection to the central data base in Madrid not operating and police presenting their reports after the legal deadline.

Nevertheless, once the teething problems are solved, the central government delegate to the Balearics, Miguel Ramis, maintains that the fast-track courts will reduce regional crime by 60 per cent. Ramis admitted that the new legal process for habitual petty criminals and first-time offenders will have “co-ordination problems, but the initiative is much too important for us to give up, it's very important that the fast track courts work,” stressing that they will help to reduce crime. Despite the two hearings being held yesterday, the courts are going to be introduced gradually but will be fully operational in time for high season.
Ramis explained that all of the security forces, judges and the state prosecution service has to “get used” to working closer together. “The aim is to make the judiciary much more flexible and effective,” Ramis said.
The central government delegate is convinced that the fast-track courts and reform of the penal code will not only reduce crime, but ease and de-congest the Balearic legal system and vastly increase the level of citizen safety, not only in the islands but across the country. “Between 60 and 70 per cent of crimes in the region are committed by 15 to 20 per cent of the criminals, but if we're able to try and punish the re-offending suspects quickly, we can reduce crime by 60 per cent,” explained Ramis.

What is more, Ramis believes that the results of the new fast track system will be clear to see within the space of a year to 18 months.
However, the central government delegate was forced to admit that the Balearic judiciary perhaps lacks the necessary human resources for the fast track courts to work immediately, but he said that new judges and magistrates are going to be taken on as well as more state prosecuters in Palma. Members of the judiciary in Palma claim that, with the present staff levels, it is going to be extremely difficult to operate the fast track hearings and unions yesterday threatened protest action unless action is taken to resolve the deficiencies. But Ramis gave his assurances that the staff problem is going to be resolved, both in the courts and in the police forces.


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