One more case initiated regarding the right to familiarise oneself with materials in the case on criminally obtained property
On 1 July 2022, the 2nd Panel of the Constitutional Court initiated the case “On Compliance of the Fourth and the Fifth Part of Section 627 of the Criminal Procedure Law with the First Sentence of Article 92 of the Satversme of the Republic of Latvia”.
The Contested Norms
Pursuant to Section 627 (4) of the Criminal Procedure Law the case materials in proceedings regarding criminally acquired property are an investigative secret, and the person directing the proceedings, a prosecutor and a court examining the case may get acquainted with the case. The persons referred to in Section 628 of this Law may become acquainted with the case materials with the permission of the person directing the proceedings and in the amount specified thereby.
Section 627 (5) of the Criminal Procedure Law provides:
“The decision of the person directing the proceedings on rejecting a request to become acquainted with the case materials may be appealed to the district (city) court which examines proceedings regarding criminally acquired property. The court shall take the decision to fully or partially satisfy the complaint, or to dismiss it. The decision shall not be subject to appeal. For the court to decide whether becoming acquainted with the case materials endangers the fundamental rights of other persons, the public interests or interferes with the achievement of the objective of criminal proceedings, the court may request the materials of the criminal case and become acquainted with them.”
The Norm of Higher Legal force
The first sentence of Article 92 of the Satversme of the Republic of Latvia (hereafter – the Satversme): “Everyone has the right to defend his or her rights and lawful interests in a fair court.”
Within the framework of criminal proceedings, the applicant’s property has been arrested. Later, the official directing the criminal proceedings decided, in relation to the aforementioned property, to initiate proceedings regarding criminally obtained property and transfer the materials related to criminally obtained property to the court for adjudication.
The applicant requested the official directing the proceedings permission to familiarise oneself with the materials related to criminally obtained property. According to the decision by the official directing the proceedings, the request was satisfied only partially – allowing to familiarise oneself with the case materials only in a specified amount. The applicant appealed against this decision in court. The Court of Economic Affairs decided to dismiss the appeal.
The Applicant holds that the contested norms prohibit the owners of the property from familiarising themselves with all the evidence submitted by the officials directing the proceedings; however, the supervising prosecutor and the court are allowed to familiarise themselves with the case. Thus, the owner of the property is denied the possibility to express in full scope objections against the impeding confiscation of property and the principle of equal opportunities of parties is not respected because the owner of the property cannot prepare properly for the adjudication of the case and provide counter-arguments to the evidence that the official directing the proceedings has used to substantiate the illicit origins of the property. Hence, the Applicant’s right to a fair trial, included in the first sentence of Article 92 of the Satversme, is said to be infringed upon.
- The term for preparing the case is 1 December 2022.
The Court shall decide on the procedure and date for hearing the case after the case is prepared.
- The decision on initiation of the case is available here.
Linked case: 2022-26-01