Amendment to judicial reform: 6 months for solving any crimes

Author : Tetiana Sviatenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

Controversial Lozovoy's amendment proposed reducing time of investigation from several years to 3-6 months
15:15, 6 October 2017

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The Verkhovna Rada

October 3, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada adopted judicial reform according to which electronic legal proceedings are introduced in Ukraine, legal experts are allowed to be brought to trial, and judges are required to circumvent the laws if they contradict the Constitution. And together with the reform, the parliament supported the so-called amendment of MP Lozovy. The essence of the adopted amendment is the reduction of the terms of pre-trial investigations. The term of pre-trial investigation is calculated not since the moment of notification of suspicion, but since the entry of data on the violation into the Single Register of Pre-Trial Investigations (ERDR) - and until the day of applying to the court with the indictment.

According to the amendment, the investigators need to solve and send a criminal offense to the court within two months, a crime of small or medium gravity – within 3 months, serious – within 6 months.

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The amendment caused harsh criticism of its author Lozovy. In particular, MP Aliona Shkrum says that if we consider moment of entering the ERDR as a start of the pre-trial investigation, it will be a disaster, "since it will reduce the investigation time from 2, 3, 5, 10 or 15 years (depending on the category of the case) to 3 or 6 months."

At the same time, Colonel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, investigator Ruslan Sushko, told that criminal proceedings, even voluminous and multi-episodic, rarely last more than a year and a half. At least because today such cases can be sent to court part by part.

According to Sushko, "amendment of Lozovy" will spur the investigation into active actions: "Today, this would be cushy number for the investigators, they list the case to ERDR, and the judicial proceedings would last for years, but it is impossible to influence them. I think that there will be a mechanism for contesting the decisions, the interested parties will be able to challenge the decision at the expiry of the deadline, so that is all right."

Ex-head of the criminal investigation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, colonel Valery Kur agreed with Sushko. He said that any shortening of the terms of the investigation play into the hand of justice, the citizens who are under investigation, because the investigation is sometimes delayed not only for several months, but for several years.

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In turn, lawyer Maksym Borysov is against the entry into force of the amendment. He said that it practically impossible to solve non-obvious crimes for such a period: "Abusers and murderers simply dissolve after committing the crime. Earlier the investigator had 10-15 years (the limitation period for bringing to responsibility - Ed.), to find a criminal and show him suspicion, but now according to this amendment he has 6 months."

Opportunity to appeal suspicion at the stage of the investigation is considered the main thing in Lozovy’s amendment, for Borysov thinks it is completely inappropriate: "If a person is handed a suspicion and she does not agree with it, so there proving it in court is not problematic. And it is profitable for all the wealthy individuals who will be able to abolish these suspicions, that is, the amendment actually engenders corruption and, it can be said, is adopted in the interests of very wealthy people."

Another opponent of the amendment, People's Deputy Mustafa Nayem, points out that if Lozovy’s amendment enters into force, it will absolve from responsibility the runaway ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, and also withdraw all the capitals of his entourage from the procedure of special confiscation.

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"The amendment reduces the time for investigation of criminal cases - up to 3 months of a crime of medium gravity and up to 6 months of grave and especially grave crimes. This amendment improves the position of the person who committed the crimes, so it will have a retroactive effect. They will be able to close the case, including already opened criminal proceedings," Nayem wrote.

"Yes, indeed, from the moment this amendment enters into force, including for Yanukovych's productions, a new period, that is, six months, will begin. The amendment is uniquely harmful," Borysov states.

Serhiy Horbatyuk, the head of the Department of Special Investigations of the Prosecutor General's Office, also said that according to the amendment voted in the Verkhovna Rada, all proceedings in crimes against the Maidan will have to be closed after the entry into force: "If there is a registered case on the fact of committing a crime, and it cannot be investigated within a year, then the production must be closed. Lozovy's amendments determine that the investigator will have 6 months to investigate the general term, and the court can extend a deadline for another 6 months. Another option for an extension of time is not provided."

Horbatyuk also pointed out that Lozovy's amendments do not include transitional provisions that would regulate the operation of the new rules on already existing investigations.

The adopted judicial reform, together with Lozovy's amendment, are at the stage of signature of Parliament Speaker Andriy Paruby. Then the documents go to the president’s signature. Next, President Poroshenko will decide the fate of Ukrainian investigators. He would either sign the reform along with the amendment and introduce even greater chaos into the work of law enforcement agencies, or return to the parliament with his comments on the revision.

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Such acts of humanism and the protection of human rights are not rare in the Ukrainian parliament. This is the "Savchenko’s law", which was adopted in November 2015. According to this law, in the case of a sentence of imprisonment, the court counts the period of pre-trial detention on the day of serving the sentence at the rate of "one day of pre-trial detention =  two days of imprisonment." People are placed in the pre-trial detention center for the duration of the investigation, they are usually placed for grave and especially grave crimes. For two years of this law, thousands of criminals were released prematurely before the term, and were up to their old tricks – robbing, raping, and killing. "Savchenko’s law" has become one of the factors that caused a surge in crime in 2016. In June 2017, the parliament abolished it.

Returning to Lozovy’s amendment approved by the deputies, if such a rule operated in the 1990s, then Ukrainian law enforcers would not be able to catch the serial killer Anatoly Onoprienko. He killed 52 people (in 1989 to 1996). Only in January 2996, law enforcers tied all the murders together and arrested a maniac in April of the same year. 7 years have passed since the first murder, which is obviously more than six months.

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Recall, Verkhovna Rada has introduced electronic litigation, allowed involving legal experts to be brought to trial, and allowed judges to circumvent the norms of laws, if they contradict the Constitution. It is expected that this will enhance the impartiality of the judges, because they will be selected by an automated system. The critics emphasize that if the case is considered by the collegium "honestly and fairly" they will choose only one judge-rapporteur, and others will be appointed, which means that the human factor will affect what is happening. And even if the system of electronic legal proceedings does not work for 5 days, judges can be appointed (not randomly). This rule can lead to abuses and deliberate attempts to stop the system.

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