Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.
Mr Lebedev, we have already discussed further measures to humanise our legislation. You recently mentioned that a significant number of people are held in confinement for crimes that are insignificant by current standards, but they are nevertheless forced to go through this unhappy and, frankly speaking, not very productive stage in their lives. I know you have some proposals here.
Vyacheslav Lebedev: Yes, Mr Putin. Thank you for mentioning it.
It is true that in the past few years we have had a growing number of cases involving minor offences. Thus, 184,000 people were indicted for minor offences in 2000 (this is about 15 percent of the total cases heard in court), last year the number reached 330,000, amounting to 46 percent of all cases.
The nature of these crimes and the danger they present to the public are not as grave as the cases state, while the consequences of the convictions are, frankly speaking, negative and do not correspond to the minor offences committed. A prior conviction creates problems with employment, though courts pass imprisonment sentences on a small number of people for minor crimes. However, the criminal conviction itself is an obstacle for employment, for taking out a loan, it limits a person’s voting rights – and not only theirs, but that of their family as well. This creates problems in foreign travel and other [problems].
Therefore, the Supreme Court has drafted a law suggesting reclassifying such crimes as battery, intentional use of forged unofficial documents and some others, from criminal offences to administrative ones, with the same penalty in the form of a fine or corrective labour, but without a court sentence, and hence without a conviction. The second proposal contained in this draft law is to increase the amount of embezzled funds that kicks off criminal liability. Currently the base line stands at 1,000 rubles. We suggest raising it to 5,000 rubles, with significant damage beginning at 10,000 rubles, rather than the current 2,500.
Vladimir Putin: Such cases usually call for confinement sentences, don’t they?
Vyacheslav Lebedev: Currently they do, but there are also repeated crimes and other things. However, this [proposal] does not apply to crimes qualified as gang offences or pickpocketing. Those will remain criminally liable, while minor pilferage should not be. It can be requalified as an administrative violation.
We also suggest adding a completely new procedure for relief from criminal responsibility in section three. In line with this new procedure, investigative bodies may, without filing a criminal case or refusing to do so, apply criminal law measures, like a fine or corrective labour if a person has committed a minor offence, but has done so for the first time and has completely compensated the damage.
If these sections of the draft law are approved, the number of cases taken to court may go down by 300,000. This would create a very good reserve in the work of investigative bodies, in terms of personnel, equipment and material resources that could be used to investigate grave crimes. This would also be very important for society.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Lebedev, human rights organisations often raise similar issues. Let me see your draft. I know you intend to discuss it at the plenary session as well.
Vyacheslav Lebedev: That’s right.
Vladimir Putin: After that, we will discuss it with the State Duma deputies.
Vyacheslav Lebedev: I will present the draft law at the plenary session and we will have a discussion.
Vladimir Putin: Good. Thank you.