“The Year of '37”, or all is fair in combatting corruption!

The establishment of the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine was preceded by an intense fighting led by the anti-corruption bodies, from which the public expected (and still does) certain results. At the same time, the public opinion and long-expected results (for the western partners, too) bring tremendous pressure to bear on the judges. Thus, the instances when a defendant has a defense counsel, but the latter fails to appear before the court and an attorney from a Free Legal Assistance Center is appointed for the defendant, are kicking into high gear. The scenario is the same: the presiding judge is repeating the mantras about appointment of “a free attorney for the defendant” if the defense counsel fails to appear before the court in three days (who cares about an illness, family matters, etc.?) Hold onto your hats! When “a free attorney for the defendant” appears before the court – he was unable to review the case materials (quite often, they may include up to hundreds of volumes), the indictment (several hundreds of pages); he was unable to establish the defendant’s position; he was unable to get in touch with the defense counsel (incidentally, no one appeared to have waived the defense counsel) - it is not in every instance that the presiding judge deems it necessary to allocate the time for review. Moreover, it is for the first time in his/her life that the defendant sees this unknown, “free attorney”, and insists on the defense solely by the defense counsel, with whom the defendant had entered into the respective agreement, and who was defending him or her during the entire pre-trial investigation! However, it is all the same for the presiding judge: he has complied with the Code of Criminal Procedure of Ukraine, which provides for the participation of an attorney for the defendant, and, consequently, the right to a free choice of an attorney, which is guaranteed by the constitution, does not appear to be that critical. The story gets more interesting when the defense counsel chosen by the defendant appears before the court, and the defendant waives the defense by a “free attorney”. But who cares about the opinion of an individual facing from 7 to 12 years of imprisonment? Unfortunately, such appointed attorneys do not always have a real opportunity to properly protect the interests of their clients, given their significant workload in other cases. Therefore, the defendant receives “double defense”, which, quite often, comes down to the appearance of one attorney, and elaboration as well maintenance of a defense strategy by another. In addition, prosecutors tend to propose to the court that it should appoint “free attorneys” from the Free Legal Assistance Center for all defendants, allegedly for protecting their rights even more securely! This is definitely a convenient model for both prosecution and the court, but it has no place for a person whose rights are inviolable. It is worth noting that there are more “humane” instances when it is proposed to a “free attorney” to review 100-200 volumes of case materials within two weeks… And here the question comes: will one attorney be able to review such a vast array of information within such a very limited time frame, taking into account the attorney’s workload in other cases ?! It goes without saying that he or she will not! Do you believe that judges don’t understand that? Certainly, they understand. Therefore, it seems that in the opinion of the judges of the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine, Article 2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Ukraine provides only for a fast, rather than a full and impartial trial, and the judges act as NKVD troika in the year of 1937…