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Wednesday 08.04.2020 | Name days: Dana, Dans, Danute, Edgars

Saeima to add considerable amendments to Criminal Procedure Law

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Aldis Gobzems, Saeima, Criminal Procedure Law, amendments, court, trials, Andrejs JudinsOn Thursday, 13 February, Latvian Saeima approved amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law that provide the duty to provide truth in testimony if a person uses the right to testify.

Discussions are set to continue for some of the supported amendments in order to further improve law amendments for the final reading.

The duty to provide testimony will apply to the accused and the detained if they decide to exercise their right to testify.

It is planned to exclude from the law the requirement that audio recordings may be permitted during a trial only if the accused, their attorney, the prosecutor, the victim and witness agree to it. Other persons, not court officers, may be allowed to make audio recordings during trials as long as they ask permission and do not interfere with the trial process. This requirement may also apply to journalists. This may be clarified further in the third reading.

Changes in relation to audio recordings during trials caused debates in the Saeima. Saeima deputy Aldis Gobzems said this is a very dangerous proposal. He mentioned as an example that this way it is entirely possible accidentally recording the testimony of a person who was a rape victim. This would be equal to violation of personal data non-disclosure rules, stressed the politician. He said that some people want such changes to be adopted with almost a revolutionary spirit.

Gobzems also mentioned there could be a case when a person gets acquitted after several years, but during those years there was information reported about this person making him out to be a horrible person.

Criminal Law Policy Sub-committee’s chairman Andrejs Judins said the proposal on amendments was received from Latvian Journalists Association.

He said in a situation when journalists are not allowed to perform audio recording during trials there is a risk of the fact getting muddied and society may be misled. To prevent this, it is necessary to add relevant amendments, said the politician.

Judins said even now anyone interested is able to participate in open trials. He also said it would be best to decide how this information is allowed to be used. Experts are expected to provide their opinion prior to the third reading.

Saeima deputy Jūlija Stepeņenko said it is allowed to perform audio recordings if aforementioned trial participants have no objections. Victims have the right for privacy, which is why current regulations on this topic are understandable. Stepaņenko also mentioned other changes that provide for victims no longer having the final word on video recordings. This means the currently proposed changes in the second reading do not look good, the politician says.

It will also be outlined in the law that information acquired during investigation that points to another person’s guilt in committing a crime will be allowed to be used as evidence. This will be permitted to do only under specific requirements of the law. It is also planned to establish that searches of passengers of a vehicle will be allowed as part of the vehicle’s search.

It is planned to outline in the law that criminal cases involving multiple accused persons may be allowed to be reviewed during a trial without participation of some of the accused if the trial focuses on charges against other accused persons or if participation of another accused is not necessary and they affirm their refusal to participate in a trial.

The law also states that a psychologist will be permitted to provide information acquired in the line of their duty only following a written request from the person in charge of the criminal process. The law also outlines clarification in relation to the right of the accused to meet and communicate with other people.

It is planned to exclude from the law the option to have particularly complicated cases viewed by three-judge teams in first instance courts. The requirement for cases to be viewed by a single judge will remain in force. It is also planned to establish that in decisions regarding submission of written evidence and documents to court as part of a criminal process it is not necessary to check them during the trial.

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