Olena Tanasevych, the President of the High Anti-Corruption Court was interviewed within VIII Conference on Criminal Law and Procedure of the Ukrainian Bar Association. The interviewer was our Partner, former President of the Ukrainian Bar Association Denys Bugay.

Key challenges and results of two years of HAAC work were discussed in the form of debate.

During the first 2 years of its work, the HACC passed 53 sentences (9 acquittals and 42 convictions), including 16 sentences adopted based on plea agreements and 37 taken as a result of court proceedings.

According to Olena Tanasevych, the Court has no prejudices regarding the number of acquittals and convictions:

HACC administers justice by abstaining from the accused person’s position, his/her material wealth, PR campaigns, constantly accompanying almost every criminal case pending before the court,” – the HACC President assured.

Interviewer Denys Bugay did not ignore the issue of judges’ freedom when administering justice, since some judges are forced to go with bodyguards.

According to Ms. Tanasevych, judges often face the challenges ranging from biased media coverage to threats to their lives. For 2 years there have been 13 appeals to the High Council of Justice with notices about interference in the judges’ activities and a sense of danger when considering some criminal proceedings.

As the UBA’s former President and legal community’s representative Mr. Bugay has inquired about the HACC’s interaction with the defense, whether it could be called a “cold war” or procedural cooperation.

According to statistics, the Anti-corruption Court has appealed to the Bar’s disciplinary commissions 40 times regarding lawyers’ behavior. Ms. Tanasevych stated:

Everything happens within the limits of procedural law. If certain measures, as taken by a judge, appear to the defense or prosecution to be unacceptable or disproportionate to what is happening in the courtroom, a party should in any case obey the Presiding Judge’s order, but there are two options.

If the Presiding Judge’s activity affects in the defense party’s opinion the exercise of the right to defense or restricts such a right, lawyer should obligatorily highlight this fact in the appeal or cassation appeal. If the Presiding Judge’s behavior does not affect the exercise of the right to defense, the party to the criminal proceedings may apply to the High Council of Justice of Ukraine to determine whether there is a disciplinary misbehavior in the Judge’s actions. The legislation does not provide for other ways.”

In addition, the Court’s President noted that there had been the cases when the Court Panel appealed to the Prosecutor’s Office because the Prosecutor’s behavior caused the court hearing postponement.

Denys Bugay inquired how, in Ms. Tanasevych’s opinion, to ensure the quality of the HACC justice in terms of such a huge workload as is currently observed.

Over 2 years, the investigating judges received more than 20 thousand petitions, appeals, and complaints. There is currently a rotation, and 6 new investigating judges are being added, who will have to make a lot of efforts, but the HACC Chairman emphasized the key priorities:

“HACC judges pay great attention to the quality and motivation of the judgments they make. For us, high-quality oral speech, skillful writing, and presentation of the arguments as put forward by the defense during the trial are not a form of words. The judges’ workload is extremely large. To be honest, all the Anti-Corruption Court’s judges, taking part in the competition, were aware that they would have to dedicate their lives to administer justice. Once a person has been informed of a court decision, he or she should not feel that he or she has not been heard or ignored.”

As a result, Denys Bugay presented the results of an inquiry of the Ukrainian Bar Association’s members about the results of two years of HACC work. It should be noted that the majority of respondents are satisfied with the quality of the HACC court service, detailing/substantiation of court texts. However, legal community continues to highlight the Court’s loyalty to the prosecution.

Ms. Olena Tanasevych commented:

“This practice is observed all over the world – the number of convictions is greater than the number of acquittals.

Once a quarter, we publish statistics related to appeals from the defense and allowing the defense’s motions and complaints.”

The discussion was finalized by the questions from hearers, top law firms’ representatives regarding the Court’s communication with NABU/SAPO, and certain aspects of the prosecutors’ behavior in the cases of special public interest.