Assessing the Impact of Criminal Proceedings on the Social Situation of Suspects and Accused

On 21 March 2019 in Plovdiv the Center for the Study of Democracy held a training on assessing the impact of criminal proceedings on the social situation of suspects and accused. Members of the judiciary and law enforcement as well as attorneys took part in the training.

In her opening remarks Dr Maria Yordanova, Director of CSD’s Law Program, outlined the Centre’s long experience in working in the criminal justice and fundamental rights areas, as well as the key research priorities in studying the situation of suspects and accused. She acquainted the audience with basic facts and arguments regarding the impact of criminal proceedings, and especially of compulsory measures, on those persons and elaborated on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights against Bulgaria regarding violations of the presumption of innocence.

In his presentation on assessing the impact of criminal proceedings on the social situation of suspects and accused, Dimitar Markov, senior analyst and project director in the Law Program of the Center, outlined the main accomplishments of the organisation’s initiative ‘ARISA – Assessing the risk of social isolation of suspects and accused’ and in particular the national reports on Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Belgium and the report on the factors affecting the social status of suspects and accused. Special attention was given to the Handbook on assessing the impact of criminal proceedings on the social situation of suspects and accused and the proposed methodology for assessing the risk of social isolation during the proceedings. The handbook contains eleven factors of impact by proceedings, and especially by compulsory measures, on persons – family, home, community, children, dependants, employment, education, economic situation, social life, media exposure, political participation – as well as short explanations what these are, why they are important, what their impact on persons might be, what authorities should check, case-law examples as well as additional references on each of the topics. The proposed methodology contains a questionnaire on the impact of criminal proceedings on the suspects and accused, scales for such assessment and an interpretation grid for the respective levels of impact.

In the ensuing discussion the representatives of the judiciary expressed their satisfaction with the thorough review of case law the initiative’s team made. An attorney was of the opinion that it is difficult to assess whether the content of decisions, cited by the experts, reflect the conviction of the judges or the arguments of the defence which the judges had adopted.