The Hungarian judges try to explain things away

Dissatisfaction with the Hungarian judiciary has been growing in the last couple of years. Earlier complaints usually focused on the inconsistency of decisions: different judges came up with opposite verdicts in virtually identical cases. Or that on appeal the judge of the appellate court reached entirely different conclusions from those of the first judge. In the last two years the law-abiding citizens who are horrified at the behavior of a fairly easily defined group on the streets of Budapest have been noticing a certain reluctance of the courts to punish people for acts that ordinary citizens consider to be criminal. Yesterday’s decision reached at summary proceedings (gyorsított eljárás) really was the last straw. People are by now convinced that the Hungarian court system is defending the criminals and that the members of the Hungarian judiciary have a political agenda. And let’s face it, there have been several cases where the courts’ inconsistencies are politically suspect. When demonstrators threw eggs at Gábor Demszky, SZDSZ mayor of Budapest, the court decided that a public figure like Demszky must suffer such acts; they are simply expressions of some people’s contrary political opinion. However, when a similar situation occurred in the case of the Fidesz mayor of Esztergom, suddenly egg throwing became a different matter. The egg throwers were punished.


Until now every time I heard spokesmen of either the courts or the prosecutor’s office talk about  controversial cases they always defended the decision, however implausible it sounded to the layperson. They always had a complete explanation for anything the members of the Hungarian judiciary did. However, there seems to be a slight change in the attitude most likely as a result of the outcry that followed yesterday’s verdict. At least this is what I felt listening today to Ágnes Frech, a judge herself and very often the spokesman for the Budapest Court. First of all, she expressed her own opinion which seems to be at odds with the verdict of her colleague at yesterday’s summary proceedings. According to her these seven people who appeared yesterday in the Pest Central Court committed a misdemeanor and were not just guilty of disorderly conduct. Ágnes Frech seemed to be pointing the finger at the police and the prosecutor’s office. The charge was disorderly conduct and apparently the judge couldn’t throw out the case and send it back to rewrite the charge. As for the acquittal of the three men Frech had an explanation here too. Apparently Hungarian law allows a defense based on “wrong assumption.” That is, if the accused can prove that he had good reason to believe, for example, that egg throwing was legal then this explanation is accepted by the judge. (This wouldn’t not stand up in an American court.) All seven men’s defense was the same: they thought that egg throwing was legal because that is what they read in the newspapers and on the internet. (Only in one case, that of Mayor Demszky, did the judge rule that egg throwing was legal and only because Demszky was a public figure.) The judge accepted the defense’s argument. So all seven should have been innocent. But four of them kept throwing eggs even after the police told them to cease and desist. Therefore, they were guilty not necessarily because of their egg throwing per se but because they kept going even after they were told not to. I find this a rather tortuous explanation; it took Frech a long time to try to make sense of the ruling.


I think that Frech herself realized that her legal pettifogging will not convince anyone about the correctness of this verdict. Therefore she tried to calm her audience: this may not be the end of the case. The police and the prosecutor can bring other charges against these seven men. More serious charges that may have more serious consequences. Also she made sure that we understand that altogether 59 people were arrested whose crimes were more serious than throwing eggs. So, basically, she must have realized that the Hungarian people are fed up and demand action. They demand that these people be punished. I had the feeling that the judges realize that it’s time to pull themselves together because otherwise public opinion will really turn against them.

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Sandor
Guest

This is absolute poppycock.
Even first year law students of the XIX. century knew that the ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Neither is a mistaken assumption.
The fact is that whenever a right wing atrocity happens, the judiciary hasten to take up the accomplice’s position.
The judiciary is rigged through and through.
There is no need for better proof to the effect than the longstanding practice, that the right is regularly and unfailingly convicted in almost every calumny case and on appeal they are always acquitted. And all that is the work of -pay attention to this one – the same judge! All this appeals are assigned to the court of the same judge! Who, by the way, is married to a second-line Fidesz bagman.
In my opinion the Hungarian jurisprudence, (especially the …prudence part,) is not worth a bucket of wormed-over spit.
Somehow they came to the collective opinion that the perpetrators’ rights are superior to the victim’s rights.
Only in Hungary!

Sandor
Guest

Sorry.
Could somebody explain to me, how can an act, that has a well identified victim, be considered unruly conduct?!

Kincs
Guest
It is precisely because of the courts’ bizarre rulings that today’s meeting of the prime minister with the heads of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts, as well as Sólyom, is a good idea, (contrary to your previous post, Eva). It may, as you say, just produce a lot of words, but when the lawmakers, the judiciary and the police have such divergent ideas of what constitutes justice, then it’s time to have a chat and establish some basic principles. The police have their shortcomings, but it must be demoralising to arrest a person for an obvious crime such as throwing eggs at someone – or taking down a police cordon at Parliament – only for some judge to rule that it’s not a crime after all. The police knew ahead of time which individuals were going to cause trouble at the gay parade, but had no power to arrest them beforehand. The (acting) head of the Supreme Court stated on Monday that you can’t charge someone with a crime before it’s been committed. This sounds reasonable enough, but the UK solved its football hooligan problem in large part by allowing police to detain known troublemakers. It shouldn’t be beyond the… Read more »
Adrian
Guest

Kincs,
“the UK solved its football hooligan problem in large part by allowing police to detain known troublemakers. It shouldn’t be beyond the Hungarian Parliament and judiciary to come up with some similarly enforceable rule.”
There was a problem over the civil liberties aspect of this – detaining people who have not (yet!) committed a crime. This problem is also recognised in Hungary:
“The secret services had informed police ahead of time which groups would try to disrupt the Gay Pride parade on Saturday, state secretary Imre Iváncsik told InfoRádió on Monday. Certain individuals were not detained in advance, he said, as this would not be democratic”
http://www.caboodle.hu/nc/news/news_archive/single_page/article/11/hungarian_se-4/?cHash=17e156f2ca
Given Hungary’s history I think is a more of problem for the courts and public opinion here than it is the UK: look at David Davis – sad man.

dave
Guest

I would like to highlight one more name beside Frech. The ruling was done by Benkéné dr. Urbancsek Viktória. This is the source:
http://www.zoom.hu/velemeny/tojas-velemeny
For those, who can’t read Hungarian, this mainstream opinion which is pretty much in line with the thoughts of law-abiding Hungarian citizens is also outraged about Benkene’s ruling. I fully agree. Throwing eggs does not fit into the freedom of speech. I wonder whether Benkene is manipulated by the Fidesz.

Kincs
Guest

Adrian:
Here’s that (long-awaited) reply.
You wrote: There was a problem with the civil liberties aspect of UK police detaining “people who have not (yet!) committed a crime”.
I had in mind the powers given to UK police to withhold passports from known football hooligans, to keep theme from making trouble at matches abroad. I was under the impression that the police are able to stop such troublemakers ahead of any given English match. Though I don’t know how.
I agree that civil liberties are more of problem for the courts and public opinion here than in the UK (if I understand you rightly). Not sure why you’re calling David Davis a sad man.

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