Bordāns: the number of videoconferences in the courts of first instance has increased sixfold 17.04.2020

On Friday, April 17, the Minister of Justice Jānis Bordāns paid a working visit to Valmiera to meet with the Chairman of the Vidzeme District Court Jānis Grīnbergs and the Chief of Valmiera Prison Andris Bašķis. During the visit to the court and the prison, their readiness to ensure the security requirements and precautions established during the emergency situation was checked.

In a conversation with the head of Valmiera Prison, the Minister discussed the performance of functions and implementation of precautionary measures during the emergency situation, ensuring the safety of employees, prisoners and the general public. A.Bašķis informed that the staff working in direct contact with the prisoners use face masks, disposable gloves and other protective equipment.

Until the end of the emergency situation, prisoners in Latvian prisons can only be visited by participants in the proceedings - the meetings with the person directing the proceedings, lawyer and probation officer take place in rooms with a glass divider, while short-term and long-term visitations with relatives have been suspended and additional telephone and video calls are offered instead. Thus, work is underway to increase the capacity of video conferencing.

Various possibilities of videoconferencing and its quality were tested from Vidzeme District Court in Valmiera in order to strengthen the use of videoconferencing in daily work both in the court system and in prisons in the future. In addition to professional videoconferencing systems, the use of more publicly available software in court work is also being tested.

Comparing the share of videoconferencing used a year ago, the number of videoconferences in the courts of first instance has now increased sixfold. If in 2019 videoconferences were used in every 18th criminal case, then now in every 3rd criminal case, which is examined by verbal proceedings. Accordingly, in appeal court the number has grown three times.

The Minister of Justice and the Chief Judge contacted the court in Valka by video conference to discuss their experience in ensuring the continuity of work while working remotely for 14 days. Mr. Bordāns emphasized: it is our duty to ensure the continuity of judiciary work even during an emergency situation, therefore it is important to evaluate the experience of Vidzeme District Court in Valka, to ensure the accessibility of court to the residents and ensure the remote work of the judges.

The Chief Judge informed the Minister with the experience of Vidzeme District Court in organizing legal proceedings in criminal cases, taking into account the precautionary measures imposed during the state of emergency.

The Minister of Justice welcomed the specialization of land register judges in reviewing other categories of cases initiated by the Vidzeme District Court. "It is important not to be afraid of challenges and to be the first to implement reforms," Mr. Bordāns emphasized.

As reported before, last year the inclusion of judges of land registry divisions in the composition of district (city) courts was started in order to use resources more efficiently, increase the efficiency of courts, reduce the workload of courts and the time limits for hearing cases.

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