Amendments to the Criminal Enforcement Code
On 1 January 2012 the amendment to the Criminal Enforcement Code came into force. The new legislation significantly modifies the law governing post-conviction proceedings.
One of the key changes relates to the complaint procedure available for prisoners. The legislator considerably limited the principle of two-instance complaint proceedings. Under the new law, a convicted person may appeal against a judicial decision issued in the enforcement proceedings ‘only where a statute so provides’.
Furthermore, additional obligations have been imposed on the convicted person who intends to commence the complaint proceedings. The new law extended the possibility of rejecting the review of a motion, complaint or request. The new grounds for the rejection are, for instance, insufficient justification, the use of abusive language or criminal slang.
‘This change may contribute to a significant limitation of the prisoners’ right to file a complaint. The requirement of the “sufficient justification” of a complaint seems to be particularly harmful. We have to understand that there are prisoners who are simply unable to properly justify a motion’, says Maria Ejchart, an expert with the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. According to Ms Ejchart, only few modifications may actually improve the situation of the inmates while the majority of legislative changes will have the exact opposite effect.
Undoubtedly, convicted persons who are a party to the court proceedings will benefit from the newly established time-limits for the judicial hearing of complaints, motions and appeals against decisions of the first-instance court. The time-limit has been set for 21 days following the date of filing a motion or complaint or the delivery of an appeal by the first-instance court.
The rights of the convicted persons will be crucially affected by the amended article 100 of the Criminal Enforcement Code, the provision designating criteria governing placement of prisoners in correctional facilities. Prior to the amendment becoming effective, pursuant to article 100 a convicted person was to serve the prison term in the facility located as close as possible to his or her place of residence. The inmate could be transferred to another prison only in justified cases. The new law abolished the criterion of proximity of prison to the prisoner’s home.
‘This modification can limit the inmates’ right to a family life’, says Maria Ejchart. In her opinion, the state’s interference in the prisoner’s right to respect family life should be proportionate and the placement in a prison facility far away from the inmate’s home may excessively hinder inmate’s contacts with relatives.