The impartial use of plea agreements between the prosecutors and defendants, followed by strict judicial control, can further strengthen the credibility and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, asserted the EU Ambassador to Montenegro, Aivo Orav.
At the conference “A shortcut to justice– results and effects of the use of plea agreements in Montenegro," Orav stated that the ultimate goal of the judicial reforms is to have a fair, independent, professional and efficient judiciary so that all citizens of Montenegro can enjoy equal rights and access to justice.
Concrete measures need be taken to limit the use of plea bargains to exceptional cases, in order to enhance the transparency and the credibility of the judicial response to organised crime and corruption through a more deterrent and consistent sanctioning policy, Orav pointed out.
“The 2019 Annual Report noted that the use of plea bargains as a tool to increase the level of confiscations continued to lead to milder sentences in organised crime cases, but it did not result in a higher number of final confiscations. It also pointed at the need to address the gap between the sentencing regime which is applied and the seriousness of the crimes tried,” said Orav.
The Director-General for Justice of the Ministry of Justice, Maja Lakovic Draskovic, said that plea agreements were introduced in the Montenegrin criminal legislation with the aim of ending numerous criminal proceedings and reducing costs at the same time, without compromising legality and fairness.
By concluding the agreement, as Draskovic Lakovic said, the suspect or defendant fully admits the criminal offense he is charged with or confesses to one or more of the criminal offenses which are the subject of the charge.
The Special State Prosecutor, Milivoje Katnic, assessed that the plea agreement had achieved its objective and that its results were significantly better “than the ordinary and adversarial proceedings in comparative cases.”
“The plea agreements were concluded in 13 cases. Out of 13 cases, four were completely settled by agreements, and nine cases were partially resolved - the proceedings are pending before the court for 37 people, and one person awaits the court’s decision,” Katnic said.
The conference was organised as part of the project “Improving the capacity of civil society organisations to contribute to preserving the integrity of the judiciary”, in collaboration with the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM) and the Network for the Affirmation of European Integration Processes (MAEIP). The project is financed by the European Union and co-financed by the Ministry of Public Administration of Montenegro.