14 March, 2007
The Department of Criminal Cases of the Senate and the Division of Case-law have made a research on the policy of punishments implemented by the courts when convicting under Article 175, part 3, of the Criminal Law on thefts entering a residential unit, other premises, a storage facility or a means of transport, and under Article 175, part 4, of the Criminal Law on thefts committed in gross amounts or by a group of persons, as well as theft of narcotic, psychotropic, powerfully acting, toxic or radioactive substances, explosives, firearms or ammunition.
Within the scope of the research, effective court judgments announced in the period from January 4, 1006, till December 1 in 11 district (town) courts were analyzed. 245 judgments of the first instance court adopted by 39 judges were studied in cases of conviction of 365 persons who had committed the crime stated in Article 175, part 3, of the Criminal Law, and 17 persons were sentenced under Article 175, part 4, of the Criminal Law.
While summarizing and analyzing the court practice, attention was paid to the observance of general principles of determination of punishment, the types and measures of the imposed criminal sentences, application of additional punishment and suspended conviction. The summary allows to draw conclusions regarding the common features and tendencies of the policy of punishments.
It is concluded that the policy of punishments implemented by the first instance courts is unified and in general complies with the objectives of the sentences defined in the Criminal Law. However, although the crime stated in Article 175, part 3, of the Criminal Law is to be acknowledged as serious, and in part 4 – as especially serious, the respective offences are not assessed by the court practice as extremely harmful for the public, and in all the analyzed cases the courts had the tendency to apply a milder sentence.
A suspended deprivation of liberty under Article 175, part 3, of the Criminal Law was imposed upon 66% of the convicted, besides, when sentencing under Article 175, part 4, of the Criminal Law, actual deprivation of liberty was imposed only on 8 persons out of 17 convicted. The cause of actual deprivation of liberty rather frequently is not the seriousness of the committed, but the fact that according to the law the final sentence in the form of deprivation of liberty has to be determined for the accused, because there exist circumstances which do not allow application of suspended sentence.
When imposing actual deprivation of liberty, as well, a possibly shorter term is imposed. A person found guilty for committing a crime under Article 175, part 4, of the Criminal Law, may be sentenced with deprivation of liberty for the term of 3 to 15 years, with confiscation of property, police supervision for a term up to 3 years. The actually most severe sentence imposed in the analyzed cases was 4 years. When sentencing for a qualified theft, the courts had a tendency to choose the minimum term of the stipulated sentence, especially sentencing under Article 4, 175, of the Criminal Law. Although the courts find and refer to mitigating circumstances, in practice there facts have minimum influence on the choice of the type and measure of sentence. Rather often, the existence of aggravating circumstances is assessed just as a fact not allowing to apply Article 49 of the Criminal Law and impose a sentence which is milder than the one stipulated in the sanction of the Article. The choice of the measure and type of the sentence is little influenced by such facts as the repeated theft, the number of committed thefts, committing theft in a group of persons pursuant to prior agreement, recurrence of criminal offences, value of the stolen property, aggregation of criminal offences.
In the analyzed cases, 51 persons (14%) after committing a crime stated in Article 175, part 3, of the Criminal Law during the pre-trial criminal proceedings, reached agreement with the initiator of the process on admitting guilt and sentence. The courts confirmed all the concluded agreements and imposed the type and measure of sentence provided in them. The negotiation process is actively applied in the regions of Zemgales, Kurzemes and Riga courts, but in the regions of Vidzemes and Latgales courts the number of such cases is less. It is noted in the summary of the court practice that the courts have to take into account that in cases when the sentence to be imposed upon the accused which is stated in the minutes of the agreement is obviously unfair due to its mildness or severity, the court has to reject confirmation of such agreements. The summary has been sent to the district (town) courts and regional courts, the Minister of Justice and the Prosecutor General. The full text of the research is accessible on the website of the Supreme Court www.at.gov.lv, section “Summaries of court practice”.
Information prepared by Division of Communications of the Supreme Court
Author: Rasma Zvejniece, Head of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court
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