Today, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise gave the Riigikogu an overview of her activities in 2019–2020. She acknowledged the Riigikogu for the numerous swift legislative amendments that had solved a number of human problems.
In her annual review, the Chancellor of Justice said that she was glad that our Constitution provided for a sustainable, effective and swift constitutional review procedure fit for a small country. She said that our system – unlike many others – provided that if a municipal council, the Riigikogu, a minister or the Government of the Republic happens to a mistake in terms of compliance with the Constitution, it can at first correct it quietly. “This is mostly the case and there is no extra tension in society, things are settled and people’s rights are not violated. If however a dispute reaches the Supreme Court, this is also a perfectly normal course of matters in a judicial system,” Madise noted.
In the year reviewed, the Chancellor of Justice received many complaints which in Madise’s words would be hard to explain in any other way than that the members of the parliament had forgotten their duty to serve the people. She added that it would be unfair to generalise, because acknowledgement was due to the officials and politicians who had been ready to make efforts, correct mistakes and change the working procedures.
In her report, the Chancellor of Justice thanked the Riigikogu for the numerous legislative amendments that, in her words, may not have attracted the attention of the public but a number of human problems had found good solutions.
Madise said that last December the Supreme Court had granted the application of the Chancellor of Justice to declare the unconstitutionality of the lack of system with regard to social services provided by local governments and letting people down. However, another more complicated calculation is yet to be made. “Namely in the 79 rural municipalities and cities – how to plan the budget to ensure such assistance and how to find the people who would provide good and human support to those who need help? It would be excellent if this became one of the important topics in the local elections.”
At the conclusion of her report, Madise said that the central task of the Chancellor of Justice – constitutional review – was upheld by the roles of ombudsman, the Ombudsman for Children, the agency against cruel treatment of people, the monitor of surveillance authorities, the human rights authority and the promoter of the rights of people with disabilities. She said that their volume of work had increased, but the staff had not grown. “My colleagues toughed it out, just like a large part of society this spring, performing also the additional roles of cook and teacher in their home office, extending their working time into night hours and weekends. A huge thank you to them. I think that was of great help to Estonia and our people,” Madise said.
The Chancellor of Justice also answered questions from members of the Riigikogu.
During the debate, Kaja Kallas (Reform Party), Siim Pohlak (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party) and Mihhail Lotman (Isamaa) took the floor.
Two Bills passed the first reading:
The Bill on Amendments to § 62 of the Code of Misdemeanour Procedure (215 SE), initiated by the Legal Affairs Committee, will bring the Act into conformity with the Constitution and establish a regulation that would enable persons who suffer immediate damage or suffer immediate health damage due to a misdemeanour to examine the information that is collected in the misdemeanour procedure and that is needed to protect their rights. The current regulation hinders the people who suffer damage due to a misdemeanour from protecting their rights with sufficient efficiency.
The amendment will also enable a person who suffers immediate health damage or suffers patrimonial damage due to a misdemeanour and his or her representative to examine the misdemeanour file, besides the decision made in the misdemeanour matter, after adjudication of the misdemeanour. The amendment will also cover persons who develop health damage directly as a consequence of a misdemeanour, in addition to persons who suffer immediate patrimonial damage due to a misdemeanour, because e.g. in the case of traffic accidents sometimes situations arise where health damage is the only damage. The range of people has been limited to persons who suffer immediate patrimonial damage or immediate health damage in order to avoid disputes regarding moral damage that, as a general rule, should not be possible in misdemeanour proceedings.
The amendment will give an opportunity to consider whether having recourse to court with a civil action is justified or not, and whether it is possible to achieve an out-of-court settlement regarding compensation for damage without burdening the court. Otherwise, at first the person who suffers immediate health damage or patrimonial damage as a consequence of a misdemeanour and his or her representative should have recourse to a court who could then claim the file from the body conducting extra-judicial proceedings.
The Bill on Amendments to the Code of Misdemeanour Procedure and the Traffic Act (216 SE), initiated by the Legal Affairs Committee, also passed the first reading. It will amend the type of alternative proceedings applied in misdemeanour proceedings, so that it would be possible to apply alternative sanction measures besides fine to influence a person’s behaviour.
The Bill will provide for the possibility to apply “time-out stop” as a sanctioning measure. The measure is intended to influence the people who exceed the permitted speed limit by up to 20 km/h. With the adoption of this measure, the body conducting extra-judicial proceedings will be given the possibility to stop drivers and send them to a designated area for a specified period of time before they can continue their journey.
According to the explanatory memorandum, this primary sanction has been included in the alternative sanctioning activities because the number of traffic offences remains high and it is important to respond in a manner that is as efficient as possible to first-time violations that are less infringing by their nature. The “time-out stop” will be established as an additional opportunity to affect a person’s traffic behaviour and compliance with the speed limit already at an early stage when the violation and traffic behaviour errors committed by the person are not yet so serious as to result in a harsh sanction but are still sufficient to warrant relevant attention.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
Photos of the sitting (Author: Erik Peinar, Chancellery of the Riigikogu)
The video recording of the sitting can be viewed on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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