Pre-Trial Prisoners Treated More Severely Than Convicts, Says Legal Ombudsman ({{commentsTotal}})

Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder was in Parliament on Thursday to make a pitch for an amendment to the Imprisonment Act, which he says currently treats presumably innocent people waiting for trial worse than convicts.

"Those deprived of liberty due to a conviction have basic rights, as do people in pretrial detention;" he said.

The current legislation requires all people in detention to be kept in their cells around the clock and restricts communication between those in different cells. In contrast, convicts can have four hours a day and generally more time to move freely in their cell blocks and talk to other prisoners.

Teder acknowledged that the point of the provisions was to prevent undue influence and contamination of criminal cases. But he said that the way in which the provisions were encoded did not allow judges to exercise discretionary powers.

"And it's not a pseudo-problem," he went on. "It does happen in Estonia that a person is in detention for a year or many years in a row. The provisions force the person to spend practically the entire day inside four walls without anything worthwhile to do. If there is no real need for such isolation, it is a violation of fundamental liberties that constitutes an assault on basic human dignity, and that is unconstitutional," said Teder.