To cope with widespread and petty crime in Italy, some of these offenses have been transferred to the jurisdiction of the justice of the peace (giudice di pace). This alternative justice system - which is marked by lenience and efficiency and by greater opportunities for victim participation - is thus put to the test. This study comes to the conclusion that the Italian reform, despite some shortcomings in the details, deserves a positive evaluation and provides food for thought for reform projects in one's own country.

Cop­ing with wide­spread or so-called "mass" crime and petty crime is a cent­ral prob­lem in many leg­al sys­tems. Dif­fi­culties arise not only from the strain on the justice agen­cies, but also with re­spect to a mean­ing­ful treat­ment of this form of crime. In Italy, the prob­lem of court dock­et con­ges­tion – which is ex­acer­bated by Italy’s strict prin­ciple of man­dat­ory pro­sec­u­tion – is es­pe­cially ser­i­ous. This con­ges­tion leads to an in­crease in the dur­a­tion of pro­ceed­ings and ul­ti­mately to a situ­ation in which many cases can­not be con­cluded be­fore they be­come barred by the stat­ute of lim­it­a­tions.

Re­forms un­der­taken in the area of petty and wide­spread or mass crime are sup­posed to provide a rem­edy. In ad­di­tion to the com­pre­hens­ive de­crim­in­al­iz­a­tions of 1999/2000, the out­sourcing of cer­tain minor of­fenses from or­din­ary jur­is­dic­tion is of primary sig­ni­fic­ance. Since 2002, the justice of the peace (gi­udice di pace) has ex­er­cised ex­clus­ive jur­is­dic­tion over these of­fenses. The aim of the re­form is not only to re­lieve the courts, however, but also to in­tro­duce le­ni­ence and ef­fi­ciency as the guidelines for pro­ceed­ings be­fore the justice of the peace. In ad­di­tion, the in­terests of the vic­tim are to be giv­en the highest pos­sible con­sid­er­a­tion. A unique sub­stant­ive and pro­ced­ur­al "mi­crosys­tem" that is com­prised of a sim­pli­fied pro­ceed­ing, al­tern­at­ive dis­pos­i­tion op­tions, and an amended sanc­tion­ing sys­tem with new forms of pun­ish­ment is placed at the dis­pos­al of the justice of the peace. These cre­at­ive and mod­ern Itali­an ap­proaches to re­form have not yet been stud­ied in the Ger­man lan­guage.

The goal of this re­search pro­ject is to present and to ana­lyze the Itali­an in­nov­a­tions from a Ger­man per­spect­ive. The re­search is less con­cerned with the fig­ure of the justice of the peace, as such, than with the mech­an­isms of early dis­pos­i­tion of pro­ceed­ings that are avail­able to him or her and the new forms of sanc­tions that were in­tro­duced in this area. With an eye to­wards the pos­sib­il­ity of re­form in oth­er leg­al sys­tems, the ques­tion as to the ex­tent to which the Itali­an in­nov­a­tions have been suc­cess­ful is also ad­dressed.

Meth­od­o­lo­gic­ally, the present­a­tion, ana­lys­is, and as­sess­ment of the Itali­an re­form are con­duc­ted through eval­u­ation of the Itali­an norms them­selves and of the rel­ev­ant aca­dem­ic lit­er­at­ure. In the pro­cess, the ad­vant­ages and dis­ad­vant­ages of the in­di­vidu­al in­sti­tu­tions as well as their prac­tic­al func­tions are stud­ied on the basis of an ana­lys­is of the lit­er­at­ure. In con­clu­sion, a sum­mary ap­prais­al is con­duc­ted with a view to­wards wheth­er the goals of the re­form can ac­tu­ally be achieved.

One find­ing is that the avail­ab­il­ity of mech­an­isms for al­tern­at­ive dis­pos­i­tions fa­cil­it­ates the sat­is­fact­ory res­ol­u­tion of crim­in­al pro­ceed­ings for minor of­fenses even without the im­pos­i­tion of pun­ish­ment. Dif­fi­culties have been ex­per­i­enced in in­ter­pret­a­tion and im­ple­ment­a­tion, however, which is why the in­sti­tu­tions are only par­tially at­tract­ive for the de­fense. Ac­cord­ingly, their ap­plic­a­tion in prac­tice is, to date, still dis­ap­point­ing.

It is primar­ily the re­lin­quish­ment of the pos­sib­il­ity of a pris­on sen­tence that makes pro­ceed­ings be­fore the justice of the peace at­tract­ive. In prin­ciple, both of the new, mod­ern sanc­tion­ing forms of house ar­rest and com­munity ser­vice, which have great po­ten­tial for reso­cial­iz­a­tion, can be eval­u­ated pos­it­ively. The con­crete reg­u­la­tions are not, however con­du­cive to ap­plic­a­tion in prac­tice. Thus, in ac­tu­al prac­tice, fines are im­posed in the ma­jor­ity of cases in the justice of the peace sys­tem.

All in all, the Itali­an re­form provides much food for thought for re­form pro­jects dir­ec­ted at cop­ing with petty and wide­spread crime. All le­gis­lat­ive short­com­ings iden­ti­fied in this pro­ject are re­medi­able. The re­form thus presents an im­port­ant step in the dir­ec­tion of a new, mod­ern crim­in­al law whose char­ac­ter is fun­da­ment­ally in­flu­enced by the prin­ciple of me­di­ation and by res­tor­at­ive, com­pens­at­ory think­ing.