In Mr Lebedev’s opinion, efforts to improve the criminal procedure legislation have yielded positive results so far: the number of civil cases decreased by 1.5 million and there are currently 12,700,000 civil cases under examination. The decrease was the result of introducing the out-of-court examination for cases concerning collection of taxes and fees under 1,500 rubles.
The Supreme Court President also noted positive trends concerning criminal cases, the number of which decreased by 8 percent in 2011. Efforts to make Russia’s criminal laws more humane resulted in the courts passing 29,000 fewer sentences involving imprisonment in 2011. Prevention and custody measures also showed positive change in 2011, with 13,000 fewer people taken into custody in 2011, which Mr Lebedev said was the result of more active use of house arrest and bail.
Mr Lebedev stated that the number of cases involving minors is also down, decreasing by 20 percent in 2011, and dropping two-fold over the last five years.
Excerpts from meeting with President of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Lebedev, you have given some genuinely interesting figures reflecting the trends in court decisions and sentences, and the social trends in general emerging as a result of the changes we have made to criminal and civil law and the rules governing court proceedings. I think they show that the changes we have made over these last years are achieving their desired results.
It is true that our justice system is clogged up with a huge number of insignificant cases. At some point, no doubt motivated by the best of intentions, it was decided that practically every kind of case had to go to court, even if there was no real dispute involved, and get a court decision duly stamped in proper form. And I deliberately use the word ‘stamped’ here. Changes were introduced to free the judges and justices of the peace from these cut and stamp cases, and I think these changes should help make it possible for them to concentrate on examining more professionally the much more complex disputes that come before them. I am pleased to see that the statistics show their burden has been lightened, because the lesser the burden of cases in the courts, the higher the quality of dealing with each individual case, be it civil or criminal.
The other facts that you give are also very interesting indeed. They show that, no matter what the media portrayal or what various experts say, change is taking place in various aspects of criminal sentencing and the use of serious prevention measures such as taking into custody, for example. Some cases require serious measures, of course, but the measures taken should be in keeping with the nature of the crime committed. Serious crimes, violent crimes, call for serious measures.
But there are other cases where we have decided to make more sparing use of criminal penalties, or make the penalties or preventive measures lighter. In particular, use of the measures you mentioned – house arrest and bail – is in my opinion the civilised road towards improving our criminal and criminal procedural laws. I hope that the examination of all of these various complicated cases and the meeting tomorrow will enable us to establish new practice and give the senior court officials the chance to exchange views. Ultimately, this should help us to ensure that the courts at various levels examine cases more accurately, professionally and effectively in the interests of protecting our citizens’ rights and freedoms.
Pass on my best wishes to your colleagues and tell them that we hope the meeting will be successful and useful.