Press conference on the issue of secondary victimization, contradictions and stereotypes in judgments in cases of domestic and sexual violence. The ProFem Center organized it on the occasion of the European Day of Victims of Crime, February 21, 2023, Prague. Sociologists Iva Šmídová (left) and Petra Havlíková.
Prague – For rape and domestic violence, Czech courts in the vast majority impose sentences in the lower half of the legal rate. Up to half of the perpetrators of child rape or rape with serious injury to health receive a sentence below the lower limit of the rate. This follows from an analysis of 556 judgments of district and regional courts, which was carried out by sociologists Petra Havlíková and Iva Šmídová from Masaryk University for the organization proFem.
According to sociologists, the courts systematically “understep” the punishments set by the legislators for the crimes of rape and for mistreatment of a person living in a common dwelling. For example, in the criminal code rape of a child under 15 years of age threatens imprisonment of five to 12 years, but in practice the courts impose sentences of three to eight years. They often choose a three-year sentence, which can still be imposed as a suspended sentence. According to the researchers, the question then is whether such punishments sufficiently deter society from committing these acts.
The authors of the research also noticed that the courts overuse the possibility of an extraordinary reduction of the punishment below the legal rate. Sociologists drew attention to the fact that, according to the Supreme Court's jurisprudence, this step should only be taken exceptionally and in special cases – for example, if the crime has not gone beyond the preparation stage. Ordinary mitigating circumstances cannot justify an extraordinary reduction of the sentence.
In the qualitative part of the research, sociologists examined how courts justify verdicts. They chose 72 convictions against male perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence. In the practice of the courts, they found the downplaying of violence, the denial of its negative effects on the psyche of the victims, the blaming of the victims, the excusing of the perpetrators, and the attribution of violence to their “uncontrolled impulses”. According to proFem director Jitka Poláková, the analysis proves that the listed phenomena are still present in the practice of a number of courts, and not the fault of individual judges. She then described the practice set regarding the amount of imposed penalties as scandalous.