In the first ten months of this year, the Department of Criminal Cases of the Supreme Court (Senate) annulled or amended rulings of first instance courts and courts of appeal in more than half of cases examined. Furthermore, in two out of five annulled or modified rulings (38%) the errors in application of a punishment have been found as shows the statistics of the Supreme Court.

The application of punishment is one of the most frequently raised issues in criminal cases, which is reviewed by the Department of Criminal Cases of the Senate under cassation procedure. In 2019, the issue of application of a punishment was dealt with in 62 cases or 28% of the cases reviewed under cassation procedure, including 17 cases in which the prosecutor had filed the protest.

“The Senate is a court of cassation. Namely, it does not review the facts of the case and does not re-evaluate the evidence. The Senate, based on the case file, only assesses whether the punishment imposed meets the requirements of the law,” emphasized Peteris Dzalbe, Chair of the Department of Criminal Cases of the Senate.

The determination of a punishment is an essential element in ensuring that a case is examined properly and fairly. In determining the punishment, the lower courts must follow a certain sequence and order. This is particularly important in cases where a person is punished for several criminal offenses and under several judgements.

It is because of an incorrect determination of the punishment that the Senate most often has to exercise its right to exceed the limits of a claim stated in a cassation complaint or protest. There were 30 such cases in 2018, compared to 19 cases in the first ten months of 2019. Every second case concerned the determination of a punishment, which aggravated the situation of the accused.

It should be noted that the practice of the Senate is in line with the principle of subsidiarity or separation of competences emphasized by the European Court of Human Rights, ensuring that the Senate assesses the protection of rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, which are comprised in the Criminal Procedure Law as fundamental principles of the criminal procedure. This also includes reduction of the punishment applicable in criminal cases where the right to have criminal proceedings terminated within a reasonable time has been violated.

“As the final court instance, we feel responsible for both the correct application of punishments and for the development of a common understanding of determining punishments. Therefore, we not only record the violations found in the cases appealed under cassation procedure, but we also look for ways to solve and explain the problems we detect regarding the case law,” emphasized the Chair of the Department of Criminal Cases of the Senate.

Problems regarding determination of a punishment detected under cassation procedure are reported by the Senate's legal research counsels to the working groups of the Ministry of Justice that are working on improving the laws.

The Department's findings regarding the application of provisions of the Criminal Law are systematized and published in the archive of case-law rulings on the Supreme Court's website, as well as attached to the provisions of the Criminal Law at More than 100 rulings have been published in the archive of case-law rulings on the issue of determining punishment, while contains 15 findings expressed in 13 decisions of the Senate.

On the website of the Supreme Court, there are also three case law studies on certain categories of criminal offenses and certain issues related to the application of punishments, as well as the decision of the general meeting of the Supreme Court Senate and the Chamber of Criminal Cases of July 1, 2008 on applying uniform legal norms for imposing punishment.




Information prepared by

Rasma Zvejniece, the Head of the Division of Communication of the Supreme Court

E-mail:, telephone: +371 67020396, +371 28652211