Introduction of the classic jury trial is a measure to implement the National Strategy in the sphere of human rights protection until 2020 which was approved by the President of Ukraine back in 2015 and complies with Article 124 of the Constitution of Ukraine. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provides support with developing the institution of jury trial in Ukraine that is intended to protect the right to fair trial and facilitate and increase the public confidence in the judicial system.
With expert support from USAID and European Union Advisory Mission, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) developed a number of draft laws (No. 4190, No. 4191, and No. 4192) to enhance the way citizens are engaged in adjudication of justice. The Government submitted these bills to the Parliament in early October. Key provisions thereof were in the focus of discussion at the regular Rule of Law Donors and Implementers Meeting. The draft laws were presented by Deputy Minister of Justice Oleksandr Banchuk and Deputy Director of the MOJ’s Directorate of Justice and Criminal Justice Uliana Stefanyuk.
Accordingly, numerous amendment will be made to the Code of Administrative Offences, Criminal Code, and Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine. Specifically, the latter will envisage that the jury trial involving one judge and seven jurors will be used to consider criminal cases except for those falling under competence of the High Anti-Corruption Court where commitment of a crime is punishable with 10+ year or life-time imprisonment.
The accused may waive the jury trial so that his/her case is considered by a panel of three judges. Besides, an individual on the list of potential jurors and/or juror will be subject to criminal liability for perjury.
An enhanced procedure for compiling the list of potential jurors by the State Judicial Administration (SJA) and its territorial departments is another novelty proposed by the bills. It is proposed to entitle the SJA to receive information and personal data needed to compile the list of potential jurors from the State Register of Electors. In addition, requirements to a juror will be revised, specifically, the minimum age will be reduced from 30 years to 25 years while the upper limit of 65 year will be removed. The bills envisage that citizens’ participation in administration of justice in the juror capacity will be a duty, and failure to discharge it will be deemed to be contempt of court. Consequently, such individuals will be held to administrative liability. Finally, jurors will be removed from the list of persons who are bound to file a declaration of a person authorized to perform functions of the state or local government.
As Oleksandr Banchuk has pointed out, the bills developed by the Ministry of Justice are better balanced as compared to other alternative initiatives registered with the Parliament.
“The strong point of other developments is that the authorities responsible for implementing these provisions – the State Judicial Administration, Central Election Commission – are familiar with these legislation and know better how to implement it,” stressed Mr. Banchuk.
The Deputy Minister emphasized the importance of preparation for practical implementation of the changes including drafting regulations and training attorneys, prosecutors, and judges so that they are able to work under new conditions in case the new laws are passed by the Parliament. This is where assistance from international donors is very much appreciated.
John Engstrom, Resident Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of Justice (U.S. Embassy in Ukraine), and Thomas Flanagan, EUAM Senior Advisor on Legal Reform shared the experience of conducting jury trial in the United States and Ireland and their thoughts on the draft laws on jury trial.