Between 15 – 16 February a group of 17 judges from first instance courts in Montenegro together with three probation officers discussed the practical sides of the implementation of community service sentences. These topics were introduced by Dutch legal experts Mr. Wery – judge of the court of appeal of Arnhem/Leeuwarden – and Mr Tigges – former operational director of the Dutch probation service and former secretary-general of the Confederation of European Probation (CEP). This working meeting was organised by CILC and its partner organisation the Netherlands Helsinki Committee, and it marked the first activity in 2016 of the bilateral Dutch-Montenegrin project on supporting the probation service and the system of alternative sanctions in Montenegro.
This two-day seminar took place in Podgorica. It enabled the participants to gain understanding of the challenges and problems that probation officers encounter in trying to implement community service sentences. At the heart of the matter lies the absence of a pre-trial and on-trial advisory practice, which from time to time leads to un-implementable community service sentences. This can be the case when physical impediments or health conditions render convicts unable to perform community work. Another important issue is the timeframe judges indicate in their judgments for the implementation of this type of sanction. This can have a serious detrimental effect where the alternative sanction misses its mark entirely, as the indicated timeframe, used to aggravate the sanction, makes the community service sentence as disruptive as an incarceration.
The Montenegrin judges indicated that this meeting was very useful as it gave them insights into what works in a community service sentence verdict, and what not. CILC and the Netherlands Helsinki Committee will continue to organise discussion sessions on increasing the use of community service sentences in Montenegro throughout 2016.
The project Support to the probation service and the system for alternative sanctions in Montenegro is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.