Estonian Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu, of the centre-right Pro Patria (until recently IRL) party, has stated that illness should not confer on any individual immunity from legal proceedings, and if such an interpretation of the Criminal Code arises, the Code is in critical need of review.
Mr. Reinsalu is referring to the recent developments in the court hearings of former Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar, who stood accused on corruption charges. Following multiple halts in proceedings at Harju County Court due to health concerns around Mr. Savisaar, the case was declared closed yesterday, prompting plenty of reaction including the announcement that the State Prosecutor plans to appeal the termination.
Speaking to ERR today, Mr. Reinsalu said that ''the law stipulates that if the accused is irrecoverably ill and thus unable to participate in criminal proceedings or to stand sentenced, the court may terminate proceedings,'' alluding to section 385(20) of the Estonian Criminal Code.
''However I would say unequivocally that the purpose of this provision is to allow for the ending of a procedure on humanitarian grounds, but not to fulfil individual, personal aims,'' he went on.
''If there is such a loophole in the law, then it must be addressed.'' Mr. Reinsalu concluded.
The Justice Minister acknowledged that the health concerns of a sick individyal involved in court proceedings should be legally addressed, but not at the price of interrupting the workings of legal proceedings.
Another solution to Mr. Savisaar's health problems, which have dogged the trial since it commenced nearly a year ago, which has been mooted by some is the use of a live video linkup to the court. There are some issues here too, according to Mr. Reinsalu.
''The current law permits the use of video linkup solutions only if the defendant agrees to it,'' Mr. Reinsalu said.
''In my opinion this provision shouldn't lead to a situation where the accused can circumvent proceedings if he or she feels so minded...flexible digital solutions are being worked on, which is why I have also ordered officials to review the law in this area, in order to facilitate the use of such technologies without needing the consent of the defendant,'' explained Mr. Reinsalu.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: ERR Uudised