Russian Supreme Court approves bill decriminalizing some offences, thus reducing 300,000 criminal cases

The Russian Supreme Court Plenum on Friday submitted to the State Duma a bill amending the Russian criminal legislation aimed at decriminalizing some offences and reducing the number of criminal cases in Russia by 300,000.

The Russian Supreme Court Plenum submitted to the State Duma a bill amending the Russian criminal legislation aimed at decriminalizing some offences and reducing the number of criminal cases in Russia by 300,000.

Russian Supreme Court Chairman Vyacheslav Lebedev said the draft federal laws amending the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure will be sent to the State Duma on July 31.

During a recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lebedev said he suggests decriminalizing some criminal offences and reclassifying them as administrative cases. Among them are battery and the use of forged non-official documents.

The second proposal is to increase the amount stolen leading to criminal liability. Lebedev said this amount is now 1,000 rubles. The proposal is to increase this amount to 5,000 rubles and for a theft which inflicts considerable damage from 2,500 rubles ($41) to 10,000 rubles ($165).

Lebedev said the proposal does not apply to crimes classed as group theft and pick-pocketing. "They will stay criminal offences. As for petty theft, it does not have to be a criminal offence. It can also be reclassified as an administrative violation," he said.

The Supreme Court has also proposed "adopting a fundamentally new procedure for exempting [persons] from criminal liability."

"Without opening a criminal case or declining to open a criminal case, investigative agencies may take penal measures, in other words, impose a fine or a term of correctional or community service if a person has committed a minor or a medium-gravity offence for the first time and has fully compensated for the damage caused," Lebedev said.

"If the bill is adopted, the number of cases sent to courts may decrease by 300,000," he said.

When assessing the relevance of the proposed measures, the Supreme Court chairman said that "the past few years have seen a considerable increase in the number of cases opened into minor crimes."

"If in 2000 the courts received minor offence cases opened against 184,000 people (around 15 percent of the overall number of criminal cases referred to courts), such cases opened against 330,000 people were forwarded [to courts] last year," he said.

According to Lebedev, such cases account for 46 percent of the total number of cases being handled by courts. "At the same time, the nature and the social danger degree of these cases do not always reflect the seriousness of the actions, while, I can say this straight out, the consequences of having a criminal record are negative and disproportionate to minor crimes," he said.

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