IMSI-catchers one of several changes to criminal procedure act
Released online on being submitted for inter-departmental adjustment, the amendments are a step toward phasing in a new model of criminal procedure by scrapping the phase of investigation run by the investigating judge.
The 14th set of changes of the criminal procedure act would enable police and prosecutors to question witnesses in the pre-trial procedure; they are now able to interview them and put that down as an official note, which however does not count as evidence in court.
Under the amendments, the phase of investigation run by the investigating judge would only be launched after the options have been exploited to obtain evidence through individual investigative actions at the prosecutor's proposal.
The amendments also propose the obligation to record suspect questioning in cases when counsel is not present, and introduce the possibility for questioning to be conducted by a prosecutor. The suspect would also be allowed to look into his or her file.
The victims would no longer be treated as a "collateral damage" of criminal act and they would have to be granted the right to avoid contacts with the perpetrator except when absolutely necessary to successfully conduct the procedure.
The damaged party would also be eligible to receive information about the progress in the procedure and to be notified about the perpetrator's release. The damaged party would more clearly include family members of the victim who died as a result of the criminal act.
The amendments respond to long-running calls from the police force to be allowed to use IMSI catchers to intercept mobile phone traffic and tracking movement of mobile phone users, despite privacy concerns raised on the matter.
The Justice Ministry is also proposing to give Supreme Court justices the possibility to pass dissenting opinions, which it believes would boost transparency and trust in the rule of law.
Meanwhile, it would impose an obligation on criminal departments of courts of first instance to call the pre-trial hearing within two months after the indictment has become final. The court would also get the power of checking on the justification of the defendant's failure to appear for hearing.
In cases of error of fact, higher courts would as a rule be obligated themselves to take new evidence or repeat the evidence taken before. This is in a bid to tackle the frequent returning of cases to the court of first instance.
After the Constitutional Court found a legal void pertaining to house searches at lawyers when they are not suspects, the amendments would ban imposing sanctions on the alleged perpetrator or his or her lawyer or relative for their refusal to hand over requested data, files or objects.
Journalists' sources would be protected except in rare cases such as in prevention of danger to people's life or health, prevention of crimes carrying at least three years in prison, and prevention of crimes against inviolability of sexual integrity or against official duty.
In addition, the scope for the exclusion of public from trial would be expanded when this is deemed necessary to protect the witness's personal or family life.