KIEV, Ukraine, April 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
The Criminal Procedure Code (CPC), which was adopted by the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) on Friday, opens a new chapter in the handling of criminal proceedings in Ukraine.
The new Code, which replaces the Soviet-era CPC (introduced in 1961), gives practical effect to the requests made by European bodies for improvements in the way criminal proceedings are handled in Ukraine. It is a further symbol of the democratic development of Ukraine, its respect for the rule of law and its adherence to European values, and was carried out with the particular support and encouragement of the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The new CPC was proposed to the Verkhovna Rada by the President of Ukraine and features many important new elements. Most notably, the new Code equalises the powers of the defence and prosecution, whereas the previous Code had granted too much power to State prosecution and law enforcement bodies.
The concepts of house arrest and electronic tagging for limited periods, as well as clear bail conditions, have been introduced by the new CPC. Jury trial is also introduced: two judges and three jury members (chosen automatically from a panel of seven people elected by local authorities) hear cases of those alleged to have committed a crime in their area.
In addition, the new Code creates an exhaustive list of crimes and details the bodies that will be responsible for investigation of these crimes. The powers of the National Security Service of Ukraine will be limited to the solution of crimes against the State, terrorism, espionage, illegal drug trafficking, crimes related to radioactive materials and weapons, and war crimes. The State Tax Service of Ukraine will be responsible for investigation of only six crimes, all of which can be punished only with a fine, and for which bail can be used only as a preventive measure. This reform has already been accepted and entered into force on 17 January 2012.
The Prosecutor's Office will no longer be responsible for the investigation of crimes. However, as a transitional measure (for five years), it will be entitled to investigate crimes allegedly committed by law enforcement officers, judges and senior civil servants. A State Anti-Corruption Bureau of Investigation will be created and will take on responsibility for investigation of these crimes, in line with the recommendation of European experts regarding limitation of the powers of the Prosecutor's Office.
Following a resolution adopted by PACE, new measures have been introduced regarding the investigation of crimes allegedly committed by high-ranking officials. Such cases will be heard in the court of the first instance by a panel of three judges, each of whom must have at least five years' experience as a judge and be permanently appointed to that role. Appeals will be heard by a panel of five judges, and cases in the court of cassation by a panel of seven judges, each of whom must have at least ten years' experience as a judge. By introducing these measures, the Verkhovna Rada has ensured that these sensitive cases are handled by judges whose professionalism and independence is beyond question.
Ten key changes contained in the new CPC
Old Code New Code The attorney for the Attorneys have equal powers. A defence prosecution has more rights attorney can: than the attorney for the defence - provide evidence; - bring witnesses to court; - independently involve experts in the examination; - obtain a court order to access documents and to seize them; - participate in investigative actions and challenge the actions of the investigator. The Prosecutor's Office The prosecutor will not deal with holds the power of investigations. His role is to supervise, investigation inspect and monitor the investigation process. The investigative powers of the Prosecutor's Office will remain only temporarily, for five years, for crimes allegedly committed by law enforcement officers, judges and senior civil servants. A new agency will be created to investigate these crimes. The report of a crime is A criminal case is opened immediately only a preliminary step after a crime is reported. towards the initiation of a criminal case; verification and an investigator's decision are needed before a case is opened. Bail and house arrest does House arrest is now a measure of not exist restraint open to the court, allowing it to prohibit a suspect from leaving his house for all or part of the day for a period of up to two months. Electronic tagging is also permitted. Bail (of between 5,000 UAH and 300,000 UAH) for non-violent crimes is determined by the court. During the trial, the judge No further investigations are permitted. has the right to return the After the investigation is completed the case for additional case is submitted to court, which may investigation give a verdict of guilty or not guilty. Reconciliation agreement and A reconciliation agreement may be plea bargaining are not concluded between the victim and the available suspect, if they agree on the punishment and the extent of damage caused. After the signature of a contract, the investigation or trial is terminated. There is no possibility of agreement in the case of serious crimes. Plea bargaining is now possible in agreement between the accused, the defense counsel and a prosecutor. In exchange for a defendant's plea of guilty to a less serious offence, the prosecutor will refrain from further investigation. The agreement cannot be concluded if there is a victim or if a serious crime was committed. The period of investigation The period of investigation lasts between can last between two months two and six months (or up to a year if and several years the offence is very serious). If the case is not submitted to court within one year of the preliminary investigation, the suspect is regarded as innocent. The period of detention at The period of detention at the the investigation stage can investigation stage lasts between two and last between two and 18 six months (a year if the offence is very months serious). If the period of investigation has expired, the suspect is automatically released from custody. Testimony is given to the Testimony is presented only in court, the investigator or the exception being when the investigator prosecutor as part of a wants to record testimonies before a non-public process trial (in which case he will need to get special permission from the investigating judge, in whose presence these testimonies will be given). There is no jury trial Jury trial is introduced. Two judges and three jury members jointly resolve issues of guilt, qualification and punishment. A jury is elected by local authorities. These are seven people; an automatic system selects three of them for a specific trial. The jury can judge only those alleged to have committed a crime in their area. Jury trial is an option only at the request of a person accused of committing a crime that would entail life imprisonment in case of conviction.
SOURCE Ukraine Foreign Affairs