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More digital solutions can be used in criminal proceedings


3.04.2020. The Government approved the draft legislation submitted by the Ministry of Justice, making it possible to use more digital solutions in criminal and misdemeanour proceedings and, therefore, reduce physical contact in the performance of procedural acts. This is part of the consolidated draft legislation prepared by the Government to combat COVID-19.

“Easier and faster options to use modern technical solutions in proceedings will be established in the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Code of Misdemeanour Procedure. All persons can be questioned by using audiovisual means, and witnesses and victims in the criminal proceedings during the preliminary investigation can also be heard in writing, if necessary,” Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg explained.

If the court is convinced that the right of defence of an accused person has been ensured, his or her consent to attend the hearing via the video bridge is no longer required in the general proceedings. The current law requires the consent of an accused person to participate in a video hearing.

The draft legislation provides an opportunity for an interpreter to participate in a procedural act and hearing by technical means, either audiovisually or by telephone. The current law does not specify such a situation and, in practice, an interpreter has also been involved by video. However, it is now also established by law for the sake of clarity.

The draft legislation will also introduce an important change to combat domestic violence. In the future, a temporary restraining order can also be issued by a prosecutor in urgent and critical cases in order to protect the victim and isolate the perpetrator as soon as possible. The court must verify the restraining order later. Until now, only courts could decide on a temporary restraining order, but this process has been slower.

“These are mainly changes that were planned to carry out during the ongoing revision of the Code of Criminal Procedure, but are now being made at a faster pace, as this is one way to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The use of digital solutions contributes to protecting the health of the parties to the proceedings by reducing physical contact between people,” Aeg emphasised.

The draft legislation is planned to be submitted to the Riigikogu with the draft legislation of the 2020 state supplementary budget and the draft legislation discussing the related amendments to the law. A majority of the votes in favour of the Riigikogu is required for the adoption of the law.