Professor of Law: Defendants should not be 'processed to death'

Professor Jaan Ginter.
Professor Jaan Ginter. Source: ERR

Any legal defendant who is experiencing health problems during the course of criminal proceedings should not see these proceedings work them "to death," a legal expert says.

Professor Jaan Ginter, professor of criminology at the University of Tartu, made his remarks in the context of a Kohtla-Järve businessman, Nikolai Ossipenko, whose corrupution trial started last week.

Viru County Court opted last week to decline a Prosecutor's Office request to arrest Nikolai Ossipenko, a businessman from Ida-Virumaa suspected of corruption activity which has taken in a large proportion of the city government and council chambers in the Ida-Viru County town, citing his health condition. 

Nonetheless, the court found that Ossipenko would be "very likely" continue to commit crimes of a similar nature, if he remains free.

Ginter told ERR that: "From the point of view of the law, It is my clear position that it is not reasonable to try someone 'to death' via criminal proceedings. To do so would injure the person against whom the proceedings are directed, as well as society as a whole, while the justice system might also suffer."

"However, whether the release from detention of one person or another is justified or not in a specific case is a purely medical issue, and on this I would trust the doctors."

"But it must be recognized that doctors can sometimes give unsubstantiated opinions," Ginter added.

ERR pointed out that it has raised questions on whether, if Ossipenko's health is good enough to engage in business and participate in local social life, why it is not up to being placed under arrest.

Ginter claimed that work and pleasure are less stressful than being held in custody during pre-trial proceedings.

"Here we are again with the medical knowledge that it is indeed possible for a person to have more time to think on such various business and political activities. He could do in that case, but now, if we take away his freedom and put him under additional stress, then this might not be amenable to him," Ginter went on..

"However, this is what the doctors have to say. This was also the case in the case of [Former Tallinn Mayor Edgar] Savisaar, that I would have expected that additional medical expertise would have been requested. Purely from the point of view of the law, I am of the opinion that this thing (ie. the release of Ossipenko – ed.) is possible, but the question is whether this possibility is always has been used correctly," Ginter added

A long-running corruption case relating to Edgar Savisaar, a co-founder of the Center Party and a key figure in Estonia's drive towards independence at the end of the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, culminated in its being abandoned, at least insofar as it pertained to Savisaar, on health grounds, in 2019, after moving up all three levels of the Estonian court system – county court, circuit court and Supreme Court.

Ossipenko's case is being heard at the first-tier Viru County Court and, while initially open to the media, has not been set to closed-door sittings.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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