Attitude to the court power in Ukraine
It appeared that half of the pollees never turned to court, this being so for all regions and all age groups. It is interesting that, if there arises a need of turning to the court, this is done more frequently by citizens with elementary school education, whereas people with higher education do it more seldom, although in the latter the need for this appears more frequently.
In spite of such an attitude the court system is trusted most; it is followed by law-enforcing organs. It should be noted that the answers of the court technical staff are nearer to the opinion of common people than the answers of judges. Most judges (88%) guess that citizens prefer to turn to courts first, whereas the court staff, like common people, was less categorical about the trust to courts (55%) preferring law-enforcing organs (80%).
We have the pleasure to report that public human rights protection organizations won the honorable fourth place. It is noteworthy that respondents with higher education would turn rather to criminal bosses (13%) than to law-enforcing organs (11%). Respondents with secondary education trust more to the USS, prosecutors offices and the President, respondents with elementary education – to religious organizations and militia. It is significant that the level of trust to the European court of human rights is rater high. As the poll showed, the main reasons that force people not to turn to court are: fear and ignorance of the procedure (67%), long terms of considering the case (11%) and financial difficulties in paying court expenses (3%).
The poll also showed that in the opinion of the respondents courts defend interests of certain layers of the population (39%), state (26%), citizens (17%), those who are able to pay (10%). Nonetheless, the majority (41%) would sue the state organs.
The above-mentioned facts are confirmed by experts (judges and court personnel), only 14% of whom acknowledged perfect the existing system of turning to court. One of the most painful problems of the Ukrainian court system is, according to experts, inadequate financing of courts and the court personnel. The results of the study demonstrate that the trust level to the organs of juridical power is low because citizens do not believe ion positive results of their suits against state institutes and organs.
Yet, the experience of the public juridical reception office of the foundation ‘Right and Democracy confirms that the protection of citizens rights in courts is possible. To illustrate the point, the claim of Lviv pensioner B. Pidkova against the energy company ‘Lvivoblenergo was considered in summer 2000.
The company regularly stitched off electricity in Lviv, thus violating consumer rights. According to Article 25 of the Law ‘On electric energy production, Articles 17 and 19 of the Law ‘On protecting consumer rights, item 43 of the Rules of consuming electricity for the population, the consumers have the right to get electric energy with the parameters indicated in the state standards. In this connection ‘Right and Democracy began the campaign and appealed the citizens to turn to court with the claim about compensating moral and material damage. The action was supported by the Lviv oblast mass media that, after the special press conference held by the foundation, published a sample of the application, the list of document necessary for turning to court, as well as contact addresses and phones of the public reception office of ‘Right and Democracy.
Pensioner B. Pidkova turned to the reception office with the complaint that switching off electricity caused him moral and material damage. For a long time he had suffered from bronchial asthma, and the disease became acute because of the cold. As a result, he had to stay in hospital and later was transferred from the 3 rdto the 2 ndgroup of invalidity. All the facts were confirmed by a medical certificate and a document that electricity was actually switched off. The plaintiff demanded to pay him a compensation.
Judge J. Lakomska of the Lychakivsky district court, having heard the claimant, witnesses and representatives of the defendants, having considered the case documents and evaluated the proofs, ruled to satisfy the claim.
The very fact of the opening the case and its successful decision confirms that the experts of the foundation rightly assessed the situation with switching off electricity and that the blame for the irresponsible attitude to consumers fully lies on ‘Lvivoblenergo. The court decision became the first precedent of such kind in Ukraine.
FINANCIAL PRECONDITIONS OF A TRIAL
The main result of the monitoring was the confirmation of the presence, throughout Ukraine, of the population layer, for whom the Ukrainian courts are inaccessible, since they cannot afford it.
The poll showed that only 34% of the respondents know about the possibility of having the legal aid free of charge and only 16% tried to get the free aid. The results show that the knowledge of the juridical procedure increases with the education level and directly depends on it.
It should be noted that older people are more knowledgeable; 41% of them know about this problem, but they themselves need it in the least degree (7%). Meanwhile the knowledge of the procedures in younger groups is less: 36% in the younger group and 28% in the middle group. That is representatives of the latter group (31-55) turned for free legal aid in half of the cases.
The situation with the realization of this mechanism is even worse. The total number of the people, who got the free juridical aid in all Ukraine, is only 72 persons (5% of the pollees). This state of things is partly a result of the citizens passivity, their inability to use the existing procedures and, mainly, imperfection of the existing mechanisms. This is confirmed by responses of experts. In particular, near 60% of judges and court personnel told that only every tenth citizen turns to them with the request about the postponement of the payment court expenses or for the free juridical aid.
But the saddest is that 80% of judges and 50% of court personnel, to whom this handful of citizens turn, recommend them to turn to the local self-rule organs, without taking responsibility on themselves and thus increasing the bureaucrats maze. At the same time, a court or a judge, taking into account the clients material state, may free him from the payment.
As the monitoring results show, the question whether the population can afford turning to courts is the most actual. Yet, as it has been mentioned above, financial problems disturb not only common people, but also people, who work in courts. Some positive shifts in this sphere have already begun. Yet, without the wide support of the public and, what is more essential, without adequate reaction of other branches of power, we will be able to create the real rightful society not soon.
ACCESSIBILITY OF COURTS FOR CITIZENS
The accessibility of courts for citizens and the real conditions inside the court building was a subject of another study conducted in 21 court buildings. The results show that courtrooms are accessible for people, but there are some obstacles.
For example, it was established that almost all court buildings had been constructed for other purposes and then were reconstructed. That is why they do not respond to the modern demands. Besides the sizeable proportion of the buildings desperately need repairs. There are no special facilities for the handicapped. WCs are inaccessible for all except the personnel.
The new feature of courts in Ukraine is the appearance of court guards before the buildings. This is a positive achievement, but needs to be perfected. The guards are not adequately equipped and properly trained. Unfortunately, the guards, instead of aiding citizens, stay in their way and try not to let them in. All observers noted long queues at the time of receiving documents from people, independently of the schedule: the reception is once a week or everyday. The clients must have in the process of handing documents the needed stationery, which serves as an additional obstacle. The time regime and placement of various services is unknown and badly explained. The knowledge of place and time of concrete trials leaves much to be desired; the trials begin late that the appointed time by the period from 15 minutes to 1.5 hours.
Because of the insufficient technical equipment the minutes of the trial are recorded by hand; people, who want to use dictaphones must get the special permission of the judge.
In all court buildings all criminal cases are considered in courtrooms, while the civil cases are usually considered in judge offices, which are small, have no suitable furniture and, as a whole, are absolutely unsuitable for this. Moreover, it was observed that sometimes judges of court personnel locked the office door, which is a rough violation of the openness of trials.
Especially important are numerous complaints of citizens about the ungrounded long terms of the execution of court decisions. This painful question will be studies in other investigations.