Estonian Courts

The project had two phases. The aim of the first phase of the project was to get information on how citizen-friendly and comprehensible are the courts of justice in Estonia. The initial analysis was based on the questionnaires filled in by the volunteer observers who attended the court sessions. The second phase of the project was concentrated on a legal analysis of corruption related cases handled in Estonian courts in the period of years 2002-2008 handled in Estonian courts in the period of years 2002-2008.

The main goal of this project was to analyze corruption cases handled in courts, in order to determine the areas that need more comprehensive attention independent from the authority of the state. The main question that this projects aimed to answer was as follows:

How have corruption crimes been handled in Estonian courts in a period where corruption as a phenomenon receives more and more domestic and international attention? The project analyzed the ability of the judicial system to react in an adequate manner to the need to have more efficient control over corruption; it also tried to map the main shortcomings of this activity. The analysis is based on files of existing finished (archived) court cases of corruption crimes handled in Estonian courts in the period of years 2002-2008 and also on national statistics regarding crime.

The determining and analyzing of the court cases related to corruption crimes took place as follows. First, a query was sent to the Ministry of Justice in order to attain an overview of all handled and archived corruption crimes in Estonian courts in the period of years 2003-2008. 2 The goal of this was to receive an exact list of all corruption crimes handled in Estonian courts in the specified time period, available and classified as criminal official misconduct.After that, archived court cases were requested from Estonian courts and were reviewed according to the methodology developed earlier.

The following courts were visited in order to attain the materials: Harju County Court, Järva County Court, Lääne-Viru County Court, Narva City Court, Pärnu County Court, Tallinn City Court, Viru Circuit Court. A total of 282 court cases were reviewed, detailing 978 different crimes that persons were charged with. The study included 417 persons (accused at trial), divided into 387 men (93%) and 30 women (7%). The age of these persons was relatively high (median value being 40.5 years of age), exceeding significantly the average age of criminals, the latter being in the early adulthood.

Conclusions: The official anti-corruption activity of Estonia until now considers primarily the simpler kind, i.e. low-level corruption. The Penal Code now includes more qualifications of crimes considered corruption crimes. That change has taken place in various chapters of the Penal Code and this makes it more difficult to attain an integral picture of the amount and dynamics of corruption crimes.
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