STA, 6 July 2022 - State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa highlighted a severe shortage of prosecutors in Slovenia as the parliamentary Justice Committee discussed the reports of the state prosecutors' work in 2021, including of the Specialised State Prosecutor's Office.
"In accordance with the decree on the number of public prosecutors, there should be 268 public prosecutors in Slovenia, while there are 200, or 25% fewer, at the moment," he said.
Šketa cited the 2020 report of the Council of Europe's Commission for the Efficiency of Justice, which shows Slovenia had 10.2 public prosecutors per 100,000 residents, compared to the European average of 12.3.
The shortage will become even more severe in the coming years, with Šketa saying "the situation will be extremely critical as the number of cases will be increasing."
Prosecutors are retiring, some are leaving the prosecution service because they are exposed to immense pressure, discredititation and even political attacks, he said.
Even though the state prosecution offices around the country were understaffed, they managed to handle the new caseload in 2021, Šketa noted.
They received a total of 24,658 criminal complaints against offenders and resolved 25,077, 419 more than they received, which is a 101.7% rate, Šketa added.
He highlighted prosecution of banking crime and crime in healthcare as two areas where prosecutors were successful last year.
They were involved in 43 banking crime cases, most of them in courts, and by the end of last year, two convictions were handed down.
The total value of the damage caused or the proceeds obtained in the banking crime cases amounts to EUR 367 million.
A total of 54 individuals, including 46 bankers, and two legal entities were charged.
Two convictions were handed down in healthcare crime cases, but Šketa expects many more this year.
He expects that authorities will also try to tackle systemic corruption in the healthcare sector through other oversight levers and mechanisms.
According to Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan, the report shows that the prosecution performed very well last year despite the epidemic and being understaffed.
She noted that 2021 was the seventh year running that prosecutors managed to handle new cases, that is process more cases than they received.
As for understaffing, she said that as soon as she had taken office, she had lifted the previous government's appointment blockade and named 13 new prosecutors.
The Justice Ministry will now focus on appointing the remaining prosecutors from the ongoing calls for applications, she announced.
During the debate, MP Žan Mahnič of the opposition Democrats (SDS), said that the previous, SDS-led government did not operate "automatically" and approve just any appointment proposal made by the prosecution.
The government checked "who is who and what they had done in the past", said Mahnič, also listing moves by the prosecutors he deems problematic. "Once you look closer, you see that most of the 13 prosecutors do not meet the requirements."
Švarc Pipan responded that interference of politics in prosecutor appointments was contentious and that by listing names of prosecutors who threw out certain cases, he showed that the previous government's assessment of professional decisions was clearly political.
This "is not admissible under the Constitution, and I find it interesting that you would admit in retrospect that the appointment blockade was a political decision based on likeability of substantive assessments of independent state prosecutors," said Švarc Pipan.
The difficult staffing situation was also highlighted by Darja Šlibar, head of the Specialised State Prosecutor's Office.
The office lodged requests for investigations against 103 individuals and legal entities and brought charges against 89 individuals and legal entities last year.
Guilty rulings were passed down on 94 persons, 55 of whom were sentenced to prison and 44 fined.
"The conviction rate was 75%, up from 68% the year before," she said. The total prison sentence time handed down was also higher than in 2020, at 130 years.