Prisoner Kalda may be released early from life sentence

Romeo Kalda.

Romeo Kalda, who was serving a life sentence for the murder of the head of the Lasnamäe police department, was granted early release on Tuesday, by order of Viru County Court's Jõhvi courthouse. However, according to Viru County Court spokesperson Kristi Ehrlich the order has not entered into force, meaning it is subject to appeal.

"By today's order, the Jõhvi courthouse of the Viru County Court, has decided to release 48-year-old Romeo Kalda from the sentence imposed on him by the Harju County Court on May 24, 2010, with the application of probationary electronic monitoring for a period of twelve months," said a Viru County Court press release.

The court imposed a probationary period of ten years on Kalda and placed him under behavioral supervision for the next seven years.

"According to the law, a person sentenced to life imprisonment may be released on probation if the offender has actually served at least twenty-five years of their sentence," said Kristi Ehrlich, spokesperson for Viru County Court.

Ehrlich said, that Kalda has been in prison since April 27, 1996, and that it is also necessary to count the time he spent in custody ahead of being sentenced. At the time of the present ruling, Kalda has actually served 28 years, one month and 26 days in prison.

Court: grounds for Kalda's conditional release.

Viru County Court found, that Kalda had sufficient grounds for conditional release and that the risk of reoffending was significantly reduced.

"The prisoner has given his written consent to submit to electronic monitoring," said Ehrlich. "Consent was also given for the application of electronic monitoring, by the adults with whom the detainee will be living," Ehrlich said. Therefore, according to Ehrlich, all the formal conditions for Kalda's release on parole have been met.

However, Ehrlich explained, the mere fulfilment of these formal conditions does not mean the prisoner will be released on parole, simply because the statutory deadline has passed. The granting of parole also presupposes that substantive conditions have been met.

Court: Kalda likely to refrain from life of crime in future.

It follows from the law that, in deciding whether to grant a probationary early release from prison, the court takes into account the circumstances of the offence and the personality of the offender. The law also considers the offenders previous life and behavior while serving the sentence, and any other life circumstances, which may lead to reoffending should an early release by granted.

The purpose of imprisonment, according to the Prison Act, is to guide prisoners towards law-abiding behavior and to ensure the protection of the rule of law. The purpose of imprisonment is therefore achieved if the risk of the prisoner reoffending is low. Therefore, it is necessary, to assess and predict the likelihood of a prisoner committing new offences in the future.

"Taking all this into account, it is (deemed) likely that Romeo Kalda will refrain from a life of crime in the future and that the aims of his sentence will be achieved," said Ehrlich.

The District Court also considered it necessary to point out, that at the time of the last crime committed, the prisoner was significantly younger than he is now.

Kalda's crime and punishment

In what was a high profile case at the time, Kalda was initially given the death penalty for fatally wounding Mart Laan, head of the Lasnamaäe police, during an exchange of fire. Laan had been casing Kalda following an apartment robbery on the night of April 27, 1996.

 However, Tallinn District Court later reduced Kalda's sentence to life imprisonment, following an amendment to the Criminal Code, which came into force in February 1997.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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