Criminal investigations in emergency situation. Test for Electronic Court system
The quarantine was introduced in Ukraine in mid-March by presidential decree. This significantly complicated the work of law-enforcement officers and lawyers in criminal proceedings. In the absence of an urgent need for law-enforcement officers there is no possibility to carry out investigative and some procedural actions like interrogation (witnesses, victims), receipt of samples needed for comparative research, familiarization of the lawyer with materials of proceedings, etc.
This is due to the lack of auxiliary tools for accomplishing tasks like calling a witness for interrogation is complicated because of the continuing threat from the coronavirus and suspending public transport. This means that a person may ask postpone interrogation and law- enforcement officers will have to satisfy such a request.
In the meantime, law-enforcement officials continue to apply for a search warrant and are able to monitor a person even in quarantine. In quarantine conditions, it is advantageous for law- enforcement agencies to carry out searches, as most Ukrainians observe the rules of self-isolation, so staying at home and the conducting of a search is not a problem.
Courts also operate in normal mode, there is an opportunity to participate in a court hearing, but in case of presence of illness signs, entering court premises is prohibited. In accordance with the recommendations of the Council of Judges, the practice of remote litigation in video conferencing is being increasingly introduced. This practice is not perfect because not all courts have video communication. The procedure itself is complicated, as it is only possible to make video calls from another court, and you need to ask for video court in advance. Increasingly, documents are sent to the court’s e-mail address and less often to postal items. Prior to the quarantine, the E-Court system required considerable refinement, court-videotaped software, archives to store incoming documents (lawsuits, petitions), etc., so the need for such systems increased several fold. A full minority of courts can currently represent clients through the Electronic Court system in full.
The new Prosecutor-General of Ukraine has begun to perform her duties in this quarantine period. We see the Prosecutor-General’s Office undergoing reorganization, as prosecutors have been certified throughout the country for the last six months. The new prosecutor-general has announced the continuation of reform. As to the current work of the law-enforcement agency, it is still early to draw any conclusions regarding work in an emergency situation.
By Oleg Shkondin, attorney in criminal cases, AVER LEX Attorneys at law