Punishing someone for being homeless and ordering him or her to pay a fine or go to prison is meaningless. Putting a mother (a sex worker) of a little child into prison for littering is cruel. Fining Roma persons for huge amounts, multiple times per day, for not having some minor equipment on their bikes, or because of having a damaged ID, is discriminative.
With the coordination of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, the Decriminalizing Petty Offences Taskforce worked to tackle these issues. Members of the Taskforce include the Association of Hungarian Sex Workers, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Defence Bureau for National and Ethnic Minorities the Roma Press Centre and the Street Lawyers Association. We carried out the following together:
- The Taskforce petitioned the Ombudsperson to scrutinize the respective laws; some of these procedures already have started.
- We argued via awareness-raising actions and in press pieces that the petty offences system is extremely severe.
- The Taskforce emphasized the importance of plain language in legal procedures; we also had a conference on the topic. An expert shared her opinion on the topic in a video interview.
- We produced a study on the ineffectiveness of the current petty offences regime: it costs too much compared to what it achieves.
- The Taskforce provided legal assistance in strategic legal cases.
- We conducted interviews with judicial and law enforcement officials, as well as petty offenders serving their punishment in prison. Our aim was to hear first-hand experiences on the problems of the system.
The project was funded by the Open Society Foundations.