The Slovenia Times

Supreme Court passes life sentence for the first time since independence

Silvo Drevenšek sentenced to life in prison for a triple murder. Photo: Andreja Seršen Dobaj/STA

A man who stabbed his former partner to death before going next door to murder her parents in the presence of his four-year-old son on Christmas 2020 has been sentenced to life imprisonment as the first person in independent Slovenia to receive such a sentence.

In sentencing Silvo Drevenšek, the Supreme Court took into account a number of circumstances, including that he planned the crimes and committed them in the presence of his son.

The murderer was originally sentenced to life imprisonment by the Ptuj District Court in 2021 but the ruling was quashed by the Maribor Higher Court because the case was ruled by a panel of six instead of five judges.

In a retrial, the Ptuj court sentenced him to 30 years in 2022. Both parties appealed, the prosecution sought life in prison, while the defence asked for a milder sentence. The Maribor Higher Court rejected both appeals in February 2023.

In a decision announced on 25 March, the Supreme Court upheld the prosecution's appeal, raising the sentence for each murder to 30 years for a combined sentence of life in prison.

Brutality, lack of remorse

"In making the decision the panel took into account the defendant's extreme persistence, determination, high motivation and brutality in committing the crimes. It also considered his inappropriate behaviour and acute abuse of alcohol before the crimes were committed, as well as the fact that the defendant planned the act and threatened his victims, did not show remorse, and is capable of repeating the offence," the court wrote in a press release.

The court also took into account the trauma that the defendant inflicted on family members, in particular his son, who, as a result of the defendant's actions, was permanently deprived of growing up with his mother, while also having to witness the murder of his grand-parents.

The murdered couple's son lost both of his parents and his only sister.

The court said that in deciding for the harshest sentence it was primarily concerned with "protecting the fundamental values and principles of the legal order, in particular the right to life as one of the highest on the hierarchy of constitutional rights".

The murders took place on Christmas when Drevenšek, 35, entered the house he used to share with his estranged spouse in Gerečja Vas, a small village in eastern Slovenia, after having agreed to give his four-year-old son a Christmas gift.

Once he entered the house, he stabbed her with a kitchen knife several times until she bled to death. After killing his former partner, he entered the neighbouring house, where his son was minded by his maternal grandparents. He used the same kitchen knife to kill the grandfather, while the grandmother suffered injuries so bad she died in hospital the same day.

First life imprisonment

Slovenia reintroduced life imprisonment to the criminal code in 2008.

When the country, then still part of the former Yugoslavia, formally abolished death penalty in 1989, it set 20 years in prison as the maximum penalty. This was raised to 30 years in 1998 and so far that has been the highest sentence imposed.

Data gathered by the news portal N1 shows that so far, 17 people have been sentenced to 30 years in prison, all of whom have killed several people, although in one case the sentence has not yet become final.

A person sentenced to life gets the possibility of parole after 25 years. The decision is made by a special committee based on the opinion of the prison.

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