MOSCOW, October 17. RAPSI – The Russian legal system has demonstrated positive trends in the scope of use of pretrial detention for criminal suspects and the accused, but this is insufficient in terms of getting down to the bottom of deep-rooted problems, lawyers told the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI) on Tuesday.
At a meeting with the leaders of the Federation Council on Monday, President Dmitry Medvedev strongly criticized the effectiveness of criminal justice processes in Russia.
“I think criminal practice is bound by a number of stereotypes that cause judges to fear using alternative pretrial restrictions as they believe they should be guided by the tough conservative rules of the past,” he said.
Mikhail Barshchevsky, the government’s representative in supreme judicial authorities, agrees that the courts now tend to use softer pretrial restrictions, opting for non-custodial measures. However, he still believes there is much more to be done.
Barshchevsky claimed that the judicial system and its staff, in particular, require a makeover. He believes a mandatory provision must be introduced for those applying for the position of a judge to serve at least two years as an attorney.
“Narrow-mindedness is a core problem that is seated deep in the mentality because even express directives from the Supreme Court’s plenary board are ignored,” he said.
Barshchevsky stressed that amendments must be made to the Criminal Procedural Code requiring courts to investigate cases where suspects attempt to avoid or pressure courts.
“People are often detained based on the assumptions of investigators,” Barshchevsky said. “Thus, vague wording such as ‘may avoid’ and ‘may pressure courts’ must be changed to the clear-cut ‘attempted to avoid’ and ‘attempted to pressure courts.’”
German Lukyanov, an attorney for the Romanov family, agrees that the Criminal Code must include clear instructions as to when suspects must be detained before a trial, which, he believes, will change the present situation in the judicial system.
“I agree with President Medvedev and I share his vision of evolutionary development, which must ultimately result in courts no longer relying on the prosecution’s groundless accusations,” Lukyanov said.
He added that the president’s statements and legislative initiatives seem to have triggered a positive trend in terms of detention practices.
Meanwhile, lawyer Maxim Koshkin, who represented Eldorado’s chief accountant in a tax evasion case, noted that judges have been less likely to satisfy the prosecution’s appeals to detain suspects and defendants after certain amendments proposed by Medvedev.
“In economic and tax crimes, the cases that I usually deal with, the judges tend to choose alternative measures such as a recognizance not to leave,” Koshkin said.
However, lawyer Eduard Budanov, who represents writer and stand-up comedian Mikhail Zhvanetsky, does not see any changes for the better and believes that, “in fact, things have only gotten worse.”
“Now, they keep releasing people who should be behind bars and detaining people who have no chance of avoiding a trial,” Budanov said.