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Sergei Pashin: Extending jury trials, particularly to district courts, is long overdue [Ekho Moskvy]

posted 18 Jun 2018, 11:31 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 18 Jun 2018, 11:37 ]

1 June 2018

By Sergei Pashin

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Ekho Moskv]

This view was expressed on air, on Ekho Moskvy radio, by Sergei Pashin, a retired federal judge. Pashin is a professor in the department of the judiciary at the law faculty of the Higher School of Economics, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, a member of the Presidential Council on Human Rights; and a pioneer in the introduction of trial by jury in the 1990s.

"People who stand accused of murder and causing grievous bodily harm, where this resulted in death, may expect to be tried in a court where the verdict will be delivered by a jury of six – a verdict that determines their culpability without the involvement of a professional judge in the deliberation room. This is a good move – a step forward. We have around 2,180 district courts, and it means that many judges will gain experience of working with jurors, and not just handle proceedings by means of formal documents", he said.

However, Pashin emphasised that this move by the government should be viewed not in terms of expanding the powers of jurors, but rather as an expansion following a sharp reduction in their jurisdiction.

"Until now, the jurisdiction of the jury trial has been diminishing all the time: since 1993, it has been curtailed by roughly 50%. Our constitutional right to trial by jury and participation in the delivery of justice has been practically done away with. The vast majority of cases, over 99% of criminal cases, are heard by a judge sitting alone. Over the past year, 224 cases were heard by juries, while the total number of defendants was 730,000. The fact that jury trials will now take place in district courts is a step forward," he said.

Pashin added that according to the new legislation, the hearing of cases with the participation of jurors in district and garrison courts will begin on 1 June, although the first trials are not expected to start until August. 

Translated by Lindsay Munford