The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Märt Rask gave to the Riigikogu an overview of courts administration, administration of justice and uniform application of Acts, the last one of his term of office.
Rask noted that if the previous year’s report had focused in more detail on administrative court procedure and, in the year before the previous year, the report had focused on civil procedure then this time he would touch upon criminal procedure and particularly upon the issue of surveillance which falls under this type of procedure.
Rask stressed that the state is obliged to guarantee flawless functioning of administration of justice. Looking at the statistical average of the duration of court proceedings, it can be confirmed that, last year, the court system worked more efficiently than the year earlier as regards the court of first instance, that is, county and administrative courts. Both in civil and criminal proceedings, the durations of the proceedings have reduced in the last two years, only in administrative courts the duration of proceedings is slightly longer.
Speeding up court proceedings until this does not bring down the quality of court proceedings is certainly justified. As reasons for delays in court cases, chairmen of courts have mostly pointed out vacant places of judges, the search for the accused and defendants, the ascertaining that a defendant has gone missing or is dead, long illnesses of parties to the proceedings, problems with conducting expert assessments, and suspension of the proceedings in a court case while a decision is pending in another case. These reasons do not depend on the will of the judge but unfortunately there are also reasons that depend on judges: postponement of court sessions light-handedly or simply human errors, Rask explained. In his words, the year 2012 had also seen the continuation of the positive tendency where the number of court cases that remain unsolved by the end of the year had begun to fall consistently. The number of unsolved court cases had increased only in the case of minor offences while the number of appeals to the court in this type of procedure had also been higher than in the previous year.
When discussing the issues relating to the regulation of surveillance, Rask noted that Estonia can boast of a functioning and reliable constitutional review procedure which enables everybody to also challenge the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Security Authorities Act within the framework of a specific court case in order to check their conformity with the Constitution.
To understand the issue correctly, it must be taken into account that surveillance in all its forms is a restriction of the fundamental rights of every person who is subject to surveillance.
An infringement of the fundamental rights can be justified only in the case when it is done in order to achieve a legitimate aim, which, according to the Constitution, can be only combating a criminal offence or ascertaining the truth in a criminal procedure.
When surveillance as a method is chosen, it must be done proportionally and in exact conformity with Acts. The collection of evidence and information with surveillance activities can only be exceptional and can be used if all other possibilities have been exhausted. An exception must not become a rule and the court must be able to stand for it through the practice of granting permissions to conduct surveillance activities, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court emphasised.
When comparing the Estonian judicial system and administration of justice with other countries, Rask noted that, in Estonia, less judges work more efficiently and at considerably lower costs than the average.
Rait Maruste, Marko Pomerants, Andres Anvelt and Mailis Reps took the floor during the debate.
The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to § 22 of the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act (334 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction. According to the Bill, the write-off of a study loan for persons who are permanently incapacitated for work will extend also to persons who do not work but who care for a disabled child and to whom the rural municipality government or city government pays the allowance for caring for a disabled child. Under the Study Allowances and Study Loans Act which is currently in force, if the recipient of a study loan is declared permanently incapacitated for work, the credit institution waives the claim for the performance of the obligations arising from the loan agreement and the credit institution has the right to demand that the state perform the obligation of the recipient of the loan.
The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Performance of the International Duties of the Estonian State in the European Union Training Mission and the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali” (437 OE), submitted by the Government. The draft Regulation provides for the use of up to eight members of the Defence Forces in the European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) until 31 December 2013. The objective of the mission is to provide military training as well as train and advise the Malian armed forces.
The Riigikogu Press Service
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