Bulgaria's Road Killers Get Plea Bargains over Crowded Prisons - Prosecutor

Crime | February 21, 2012, Tuesday // 15:36|  views

Penalties for road traffic offences have stirred heated debate in Bulgaria over the past few days. File photo

Prosecutors are not seeking harsher penalties for road killers and agree to plea bargains because Bulgarian prisons are overcrowded, Deputy Chief Prosecutor Valeri Parvanov said Tuesday in an interview for the Bulgarian National Television (BNT).

"How can I make this clear? The current capacity of Bulgarian prisons is 4000, while the offenders serving prison terms are 11 000. How many inmates do you believe there should be?," he said in a phone call during the morning broadcast of BNT.

"Children die in other circumstances too, and there are other parents in your situation," Parvanov told Neli Petrova, the mother of a 20-year-old girl who got run over at a zebra crossing in the Black Sea city of Varna.

Petrova, who participated in the discussion from BNT's studio, called Parvanov's statement "impudent".

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov also called during the broadcast to comment on Parvanov's words.

"Through the laws that were passed in the past 20 years we went to the other extreme. Rather than protecting road traffic victims, we introduced a liberalized regime which benefits the people who commit these road killings. What is more, I cannot accept this incomprehension on the part of the representatives of these institutions, which are supposed to administer justice and to always uphold the best interest of the community. Drivers who use alcohol or drugs must be punished in accordance with the law, regardless of the spare capacity of penitentiary facilities," the Interior Minister stated.

Tsvetanov reminded that it was a responsibility of the state to provide correctional facilities with sufficient capacity which meet EU requirements.

Yavor Notev, a lawyer and an MP from nationalist party Ataka, said that the plea bargain had been introduced in order to fast-track trials.

"Society, however, is obviously unprepared for this instrument," he added.

Vladimir Todorov, Chair of the Bulgarian Association of Road Traffic Victims thanked Tsvetanov for the support.

"From what I heard from Parvanov, I was left with the impression that we are protecting personal interests. Let me draw attention to the fact that after the tragedy in Simeonovgrad (a car crash which killed 6 young people in end-April 2011) over 27 000 signatures were collected in favor of legal amendments similar to the ones that have been proposed in Parliament. Nearly every Bulgarian family has had a road traffic victim," Todorov noted.

Meanwhile, Trifon Trifonov, the father of one of the victims of the hellish crash in Simeonovgrad, presented statistics from the Sofia City Court for 2011 during the morning broadcast of bTV.

"Out of a total of 30 fatal car accidents, 18 cases were closed with plea bargains. Of the remaining 11 trials, 6 ended with suspended sentences, one with a probation and the other ones were acquittals. This means that there are no custodial sentences in Bulgaria. The only non-suspended sentence was handed recently to Yosko," Trifonov argued.

Yosif Yosifov, aka Yosko, who caused a DUI car crash which killed two and sent two others to hospital with serious injuries, was sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment on February 10.

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Tags: penal code, Simeonovgrad, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Interior Minister, Valeri Parvanov, Deputy Chief Prosecutor, car accident, car crash, traffic offense, Road Traffic Act, suspended sentence, plea bargain, prisons


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