Romanian justice minister demands prosecutor general’s dismissal

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Romania’s justice minister on Wednesday demanded the prosecutor general’s dismissal, accusing him of exceeding his authority in a move that could heighten concerns in Brussels about democratic values in some eastern EU member states.


Other recent steps by Romania’s ruling Social Democrats to change the justice system and replace senior judicial officials have triggered massive street protests, and sparked worries about the rule of law at the European Commission and among diplomats.

Justice Minister Tudorel Toader read a summary of a 20-point report that he had compiled, calling for Prosecutor General Augustin Lazar to be fired on the grounds that he was responsible for “acts and facts intolerable to the rule of law.”

Lazar is the last major figure in an anti-corruption drive that has won praise from Brussels for exposing high-level corruption, including the theft of EU funds.

He condemned Toader’s bid to oust him. “(This) is the way that the executive, by way of the justice minister, demonstrates its understanding about respect for prosecutors’ independence,” he told reporters.

Lazar oversees thousands of prosecutors, including anti-organised crime unit DIICOT and anti-corruption unit DNA.

The DIICOT leader’s mandate has expired, and the head of the DNA, Laura Codruta Kovesi, was fired in July after a performance review similar to Lazar’s. Critics say their potential replacements might be soft on crime.

Under Romanian law, the president must sign off on petitions to dismiss chief prosecutors, which are requested by the justice minister and also need approval from a judicial watchdog.

However, the Constitutional Court ruled earlier this year that the president does not have the right to oppose such a request from the justice minister. As a result, President Klaus Iohannis had to sack the DNA’s Kovesi in July.

Iohannis will be limited to assessing the legality of the procedure. Analysts have said the constitutional court’s ruling increased the government’s power over prosecutors.

Transparency International ranks Romania as one of the EU’s most corrupt states and Brussels has kept its justice system under special monitoring since it joined the bloc in 2007.

Anti-corruption prosecutors have convicted thousands of public officials, including lawmakers and ministers.

Among them is Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea who has a two-year suspended jail sentence in a vote-rigging case. He was also sentenced to three and a half years in jail in a separate abuse of office case. He denies all charges and has appealed.

The European Commission, which is already seeking sanctions against Poland and Hungary for flouting democratic values, fears Romania is following suit. It is due to release its latest justice monitoring report on Romania in November.

False Rape Accuser: Sophie Skinner

A mother-of-three has been jailed for falsely claiming she was raped.

Sophie Skinner, 25, from Llanfoist in Monmouthshire, denied perverting the course of justice but was found guilty by a jury.

Newport Crown Court was told the life of her victim Damon Osborne was “turned upside down” by the accusation in 2016.

She was sentenced to 18 months in prison by Judge Daniel Williams after he said she had shown “no remorse at all”.

The court heard that Skinner went out drinking in Abergavenny “looking for attention” on Saturday, 4 June in 2016.

CCTV showed her in a Wetherspoons pub, before going to public toilets in White Horse Lane.

“You then saw Damon Osborne who was waiting for a lift home – at the time he was 18 and you were 23,” Judge Williams said.

“You ran over to him and hugged him… the CCTV at the toilets could not be clearer – you initiated the sex with him.

“When he gave into your persistent demands for sex you told him you could get him into trouble for having sex with you.”


The court was told that Skinner then made a false claim that she had been raped to Wetherspoons’ door staff, and was interviewed by police.


Mr Osborne “strenuously and completely truthfully” denied the accusation, Judge Williams said.

“After a commendably swift review of the evidence by police, the decision was properly made that Damon Osborne would not be prosecuted for the claim made, and to arrest you,” he added.

Mr Osborne said since he was accused in 2016 his life had “been a mess” in a victim statement.

After a jury in the first trial against Skinner failed to reach a verdict, he agreed to give evidence against her again.

“I was accused of rape by Sophie Skinner, that turned my life upside down,” Mr Osborne said.

“I was locked up for 17 hours, I had to undergo an embarrassing medical.

“I still think of the worst case scenario – if there had been no CCTV in this case – Sophie Skinner would have been believed and I would not have been giving this statement, because I would be in jail.”

‘No empathy’

Judge Williams described Skinner’s allegation of rape as “patently false”.

“You maintain your denials,” he said.

“You have no victim empathy, you have no remorse at all.”

“As the court have said before rape is a repulsive crime. The victims of rape should be treated with every possible consideration.

“On the other hand, just because rape is a repulsive crime, a false accusation can have dreadful consequences.”

Judge Williams said such accusations could have an “insidious” effect on genuine victims, sometimes “allowing doubt to creep in where none should exist”.

The court heard Skinner had never been in trouble with the police before, but she had been taken into care as a child and was described as “a vulnerable young woman”.

She was sentenced to 18 months, of which she was told she would serve half before being released on licence.

Facebook boss Sheryl Sandberg slams firms for their poor gender diversity …after she hires Sir Nick Clegg.

It’s only a few days since Facebook hired Sir Nick Clegg as its head of global affairs, missing a golden opportunity to hand a top job to a woman.

But now the internet giant’s second in command has declared that women face a ‘rigged’ race in the workplace.

In an article likely to raise eyebrows, Sheryl Sandberg told how men were given a ‘huge head start’ and women ‘are disadvantaged from the beginning’.