Deals with investigators – progress or grounds for corruption?
On 20 November the new Criminal Procedure Code came into force. Among the new features is the so-called “agreement with the investigators” drawn up at the initiative of the Prosecutor or the suspect or accused. The suspect or accused in this way can get a milder sentence if found guilty. This is only available for people figuring in cases involving especially grave crimes. A deal can also be brokered with the victim of the crime. While at first glance everybody would appear to win from this, Deutsche Welle spoke with experts who believe such deals could serve as the basis of corruption among those bodies involved.
According to Kharkiv lawyer Yevhenia Korotych, such practice always existed, however the investigators’ promises that the sentence would be lighter were verbal and not always kept. Now such agreements will have an official status and be affirmed by a court ruling. “First a written agreement is drawn up and approved by the court. Only then do the parties begin keeping their commitments, and not before as was the case previously”, she explains.
She believes that the official status of the agreement with the investigators will make it possible to terminate many criminal cases at the outset. Former Kharkiv investigator Serhiy Rohozin agrees and hopes that this will reduce the number of domestic cases and those which have dragged on for years, while making it possible to devote more energy to solving high-profile cases. People will be able to get lighter sentences, he says, in exchange for truthful information about those figuring in the case.
Yevhen Zakharov, head of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Board believes that such agreements are a progressive move for the Ukrainian justice system. “It will be possible, for example, to more often hand down conditional sentences. The number of people in SIZO [remand units] and in prisons convicted of minor offences should be considerably reduced.
Serhiy Rohozin however warns that corruption may mean that the progressive move does not prove as positive as hoped. He is not convinced that all prosecutors, investigators and judges are disinterested and cannot exclude the possibility of articles of the new CPC on such agreements being manipulated. The investigator, for example, would be able to make the classification of the crime a bit more serious which would exclude such an agreement, or on the contrary, lower the classification. This is the point where corruption can be involved.
He advises victims, for example, to be careful in negotiating such an agreement. In the future medical treatment etc could prove more expensive while such agreements involve the people waiving any right of appeal.
Yevhenia Korotych points to possible cases of abuse of position since such agreements are convenient for the investigators if they haven’t been able to gather enough evidence in a case, and also to improve their statistical figures (for how many cases have – supposedly – been solved. Yevhen Zakharov agrees that such agreements could be abused, though he remains hopeful that “implementation in full of the new CPC” will prevent abuse.
Abridged from a Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service report