Robbing of Tourists Is Most Frequent Offense in Vatican City

First Public Evaluation of Justice in Small State

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 8, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Vatican City is peaceful, but criminal prosecutions are too lengthy, says the promoter of justice in this tiny state.



At today's solemn start of the judicial year, Nicola Picardi made an evaluation of the administration of criminal justice in the Vatican, something that had never been done before. A Mass celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, preceded the ceremony.

Like any other state, Vatican City has civil and criminal courts that must judge offenses committed within its borders.

Picardi, who functions as an attorney general, reported that there were 397 civil prosecutions and 608 criminal prosecutions under way as of 2002. The majority were robberies -- particularly of visitors to the Vatican Museums or other tourist spots -- frauds and cases of insults to public employees.

Picardi had handled the 1998 murder-suicide case when Swiss Guard Cedric Tornay killed Colonel Alois Estermann, the leader of the Guards, and the latter's wife.

The greatest problem facing the administration of justice in Vatican City State is the length of criminal prosecutions, which "corresponds to that frequently noted in Italian courts," Picardi explained. The length of time varies between 200 and 310 days, something which is "not reasonable," he said.

Four hundred fifty-five people live in Vatican City State, including residents and citizens. Several million pilgrims and tourists visit Vatican City every year.