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Criminals escaping justice because of overcrowded courts

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10:11 CEST+02:00
Swiss prosecutors say red tape and a rise in the number of cases mean they don't have time to properly investigate serious crimes.

“The list of pending cases is getting longer and longer. There are not enough personnel to cope with the caseload,” the president of the Swiss Conference of Prosecutors (SCP), Fabien Gasser, told Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung.

A cross-cantonal survey shows the number of court cases has jumped from 8,205 10,059 in the last five years while the number of orders of summary punishment – handed down directly by prosecutors rather than the courts – rose from 354,175 to 427,500 from 2012 to 2017.

Daniel Burri, chief prosecutor for the canton of Lucerne, put these rises down to Switzerland’s growing population, and to an overabundance of laws.

“There is a rule or law for everything now, and therefore more offences leading to criminal complaints,” he said.

“The number of cases has grown so high that there is not enough time for the investigation of serious crimes and misdemeanours,” he added, noting courts were struggling to combat drugs-related, human trafficking and cybercrimes.

“Errors can’t be ruled out,” warned the chief prosecutor for the canton of Solothurn, Hansjürg Brodbeck.

Meanwhile, Baschi Dürr, who is on the board of the management for the association of Swiss justice and police directors said the current system, introduced in 2011, was creating a red tape nightmare.

He said offenders were being given too much scope to dispute decisions, which was making legal processes longer and more expensive.

“We need more and more time for each case,” SCP president Gasser said.

“Legislators lay out detailed step-by-step guidelines which makes our work more difficult,” he added.

The Swiss government is currently reviewing procedures but prosecutors say they are sceptical this will ease their workload.

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