20 November, 2007
The Division of Case-Law of the Supreme Court in cooperation with experts in criminal law have worked out and published on the website of the Supreme Court www.at.gov.lv a summary on court practice in criminal cases under Article 160 (forcible sexual assault) and Article 162 (immoral acts with a minor) of the Criminal Law.
The object of the research was the 100 adjudicated cases in the regional courts of Latvia and 2005 – 2006, in which 100 individuals out of 106 initially accused were convicted. Three of the accused individuals were women. The youngest accused was 14 years old, the oldest – 83.
There are 176 victims of sexual assault in the examined criminal cases, among them 144 females and 32 males. Only 4 victims were adults. Majority of those threatened by sexual assault were girls in the age of 7 to 13 years. The relations the accused-the victim were also analyzed, and the situation is as follows: out of 106 accused persons 16 individuals were strangers to the victims; 39 individuals – neighbours, people known to the victims themselves or their parents; 2 individuals rented accommodations from the parents of victims; 10 accused individuals were together with the victims in the same educational institutions or correctional facilities; one accused person was a teacher of the victim. The remaining 37 accused persons were either relatives of the victims, or lived in the same family as the victims, including father – in 6 cases, grandfather – 2, stepfather – 4, mother – 1, brother – 2, stepbrother – 2, grandmother’s husband – 1 case. 11 accused persons were individuals living together with the victim’s mother, 2 accused persons – living together with grandmother, the mother’s brother and other relatives – 5 persons, guardians – 2 accused individuals. In most cases both accused juveniles and victims are from unfavourable families. Quite frequently, sexual assault lasted for a long period of time, however, the relatives of victims being aware of it did not undertake any steps to prevent the situation.
The topical issues of qualification of criminal offence under Articles 160 and 162 of the Criminal Law are analyzed in the research. The attention is paid both to the errors of qualification during pre-trial proceedings where bringing accusation is within the competence of the prosecutor, and to hearings of criminal cases in the courts where the courts evaluates the validity of charges. The experts have come to a conclusion that in practice in separate cases the understanding of principal content and the qualifying features differs what causes erroneous qualification solutions.
Attention was paid also to the practice of imposing punishment and its correspondence to the general principles of statement of punishment. Criminal offences contained in Articles 160 and 162 of the Criminal Law are classified as crimes to be punished rather severely, for example, in the second and third parts of Article 160 of the Criminal Law imposing minimum imprisonment term limit respectively 3 and 5 years, and maximum – 12 and 15 years. For crimes stated in the first part of Article 160 and the second part of Article 162 of the Criminal Law imprisonment is imposed up to 6 years. The practice of imposing punishment in the analyzed criminal cases is evaluated by the experts as more severe compared to those imposed in other categories of criminal cases, application of more severe punishment was demanded also by prosecutors. At the same time, it was concluded that the punishment demanded by the prosecutor and imposed by the court not always is adequate to the committed crime and the accused person, what may be explained by not following the general principles of imposing punishment and other guidelines of the legislator what has been noted already more than once in the case-law. Suspended sentence has been applied to 42 individuals out of 100 accused persons, but regulations of Article 49 of the Criminal Law on imposing milder punishment that the law stipulates, were applied to 17 individuals.
The results of the summary were discussed in the joint session of senators of the Department of criminal Cases of the Senate. The conclusions and suggestions enclosed in the summary as a recommendation may promote development of unified court practice in the country.
Information prepared by Division of Communications of the Supreme Court
Author: Rasma Zvejniece, Manager of the Division of Communications of the Supreme Court
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone: 7020396, 28652211