Bill aimed at digitizing criminal hearings sent for first Riigikogu reading

A Riigikogu sitting in progress.
A Riigikogu sitting in progress. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

A bill which would see fully digitized criminal proceedings in place in Estonia has been sent for its first Riigikogu reading. While Estonia is famed for its e-state, legal proceedings make heavier use of paper documentation.

The bill is aimed at speeding up criminal case processing and cutting down on paper documentation, BNS reports, and was sent by the parliament's legal affairs committee.

Bills usually require three readings to pass into effect.

Chairman of the legal affairs committee, Center MP Jaanus Karilaid, said that with modern technology facilitating digitally recording of hearings as well as relaying, signing and storing documents, legislation also needs to be updated to permit and foster such practices.

Questions over the legal definition of a signature has led to many documents being printed out, he added.

The bill aims to amend the law to use technology-neutral phrasing and to eliminate terms referring to paper documentation, BNS reports.

It would also lay down a general rule that files on criminal proceedings are to be kept in a digital e-filing system, and that data exchange in such proceedings is also carried out first and foremost in digital form.

Member of the legal affairs committee, MP Urve Tiidus (Reform) said that the bill also seeks to resolve various problems in pre-trial proceedings.

"Among other things, the court would be able use less severe preventive measures instead of placement into custody, for instance to impose an obligation to regularly report to the police, be available via phone or email and respond to the sent announcements," Tiidus said.

"The obligation to remain at home under electronic surveillance using an ankle bracelet could also be imposed pursuant to the bill as a surveillance measure, separately from custody," she went on.

The sitting was also attended by deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Justice for criminal policy Markus Karner, legal adviser at the public order and criminal policy department of the Ministry of the Interior Marju Aibast and former chairman of the legal affairs committee Vaino Linde.

The first reading itself is scheduled for May 5.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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