Slow pace of Latvian justice revealed in Audit Office report

The often slow pace of justice in Latvia was brought into sharp focus October 10 when the LETA news agency reported that last year, almost half of all criminal cases being investigated by the State Police were more than five years old.

The information came from the State Audit Office  after auditing the effectiveness of State Police's pretrial investigation procedures.

The purpose of the audit was to determine the reason why there were so many unsolved cases and so many complaints about the quality of police investigations. The Criminal Procedure Law, which came into force more than a decade ago, should have solved these problems. However, the State Police's performance results do not suggest that the situation is improving, although this is not entirely due to investigators' work, the Audit Office has found.

Although the Criminal Procedure Law does provide solutions to make investigative procedures faster, more efficient and economic, successful application of the measures provided in the law is hindered by poor professional qualifications of investigators, shortcomings in organization of the State Police's operations, and problems in supervision of pretrial investigations by prosecutors, the Audit Office said.

Since the Criminal Procedure Law came into effect, only one-third of criminal cases opened by the State Police are successfully investigated within a year.

Furthermore, the statute of limitations had run out for 47 percent of criminal cases the State Police closed in 2016. And out of approximately 200,000 criminal cases investigated by the State Police last year, some 47 percent had been opened more than five years before.

The Audit Office points out that the State Police investigate 95 percent of crimes registered in Latvia, and these crimes are very different and require investigators to have extensive knowledge of the Criminal Procedure Law. However, investigators have only been required to have a degree in law since January 1 this year, and only 44 percent of State Police investigators currently have education in law.

The Audit Office also points out that there are shortcomings in organization of the State Police's operations, and reforms carried out at the State Police during the last several years were not well thought out and. As a result, there may be significant differences among the State Police's regional administrations, their workloads and performance results.

In addition, prosecutors supervising investigations in criminal cases often overturn decisions made by investigators, and the number of such instances has been increasing. And shortcomings in the State Police's investigative procedures may infringe on the freedoms of victims or suspects in a criminal case.

Following the audit, the Audit Office has given the State Police seventeen recommendations to be implemented by the end of 2022.

You can find out more about the work of the State Audit Office in the English-subtitled video below.

 

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