The study on the role of judges in the criminal justice system was implemented within the framework of Facilitating Implementation of Reforms in the Judiciary (FAIR), a project funded by the European Union. The study aimed to identify the issues in regard to the role of judges that legal professionals (judges and lawyers) find important for ensuring fair, impartial and human rights oriented criminal justice system. During the research, the individual interviews with judges and focus groups with criminal defense lawyers revealed the following key findings:
- Some judges and lawyers described the need to change the Code of Administrative Offences. The exact definition of different offenses was of particular focus in this regard.
- The absence of the burden of proof when discussing administrative offences was named as a challenge especially if there is only testimony or the protocol of an administrative body representative in the case.
- When discussing Criminal Procedure Code, judges and lawyers name two main domains for the expansion of the role of judges: giving judges the right to ask questions without the consent of the parties and the ability to demand expertise.
- Some judges and lawyers also find it necessary to equip judges with the right to change the terms of the plea agreement.
- As for the role of victims, a large number of judges see no need for change. A smaller share noted that victims should have the right to present evidence and to appeal if the Prosecutor’s Office rejects their request.
- With domestic violence cases, judges name insufficient evidence and witnesses changing or rejecting testimony as the main challenges; Lawyers report it is important to investigate the reasons victims change their testimony or refuse to make it again and to take into consideration their social-economic background when discussing the case.
In the discussion of drug-related crimes, judges see no need to expand their rights to check the reliability of the sources of operative-investigative information. According to a small number of judges, they should have some ability to check the reliability of the source of operative-investigative information. Most lawyers think it is necessary that judges check the reliability of the source.
“I would like to express gratitude towards the European Union for not only this study but for everything that the EU does for the development of the Georgian justice system. I want to confirm that this support has already led to specific positive results” - said Ms. Mzia Todua, Acting Chairperson of the Supreme Court of Georgia.
“The Association Agenda sets out the objective to ensure fair trial, access to justice and procedural rights in Georgia in line with European standards. So this study comes really in handy, as it helps to take stock of important aspects, such as adversarial principle, plea bargaining, or the rights of victims.” - said Mr. Peter Danis, the representative of EU Delegation to Georgia.
The overall objective of the EU-funded project is to support real reforms of the judicial system through monitoring, evidence-based advocacy, strengthening of individual judges and promotion of dialogue with them. The project also aims to increase the involvement of community groups in the reform process of the judiciary through awareness raising and mobilization.
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