The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), a local watchdog, released today the results of its fifteenth criminal trial monitoring, conducted between March 2020 and March 2021. The document outlines key tendencies and statistics pertaining to criminal court cases.
The watchdog that monitoring of 396 first appearance court hearings of 464 defendants found that 98% of the suspects were either released on bail (44%) or detained (54%). Justices never used personal surety as an alternative measure, according to GYLA.
Some of the court decisions – detention of 66 individuals (27%) and bail imposed on 71 persons (36%) – were either unsubstantiated or improperly substantiated by courts, according to GYLA.
As for the prosecution, GYLA monitors found that prosecutors motioned for pre-trial detention against 333 persons – 72% of the defendants. In these cases, the judges refused to satisfy the motion against 93 individuals.
Prosecutors also presented 85 motions for bail, GYLA noted, adding that in 73 of the cases, the justices reduced the amount of bail requested. Prosecutors, on their part, requested the minimum amount of bail GEL 1,000 (USD 300) in only two cases, according to the watchdog.
The report said defendants appeared before the court as detainees the majority of the time (64% out of total 299 hearings). In 86% of the cases, “the grounds for the detention remained unknown since the lawfulness of the arrest was not discussed at the hearing. In 4 cases, the court found the arrest illegal,” the advocacy group asserted.
The COVID-19 pandemic also had a negative impact on the Georgian judiciary, according to GYLA, especially “on the right to public scrutiny. GYLA added that it was problematic to involve inmates in virtual hearings, with insufficient technical means and lack of knowledgeable staff leading to trials being “frequently” postponed.
The watchdog reported that in virtual hearings, problems also arose with examinations of physical evidence, attorney-client confidentiality, and witness interviews. According to GYLA, some witnesses were left vulnerable to coercion, citing seven cases when witnesses were questioned from police units.