Proposed legislation capping the length of time it takes to reach a final verdict in the Italian courts has begun its journey through parliament.

Under the bill, all criminal trials of first instance currently underway would be scrapped if they have been running for more than two years, provided that the suspect is not accused of crimes carrying a jail sentence of over ten years.

Under the same provisions trials would only be able to last a maximum of two years for each level of justice (court of first instance, appeal and second appeal), resulting in a maximum of six years overall.

The national association of magistrates has said up to 50 per cent of trials currently underway could be thrown out if the bill is passed into law.

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