Bulgarian Parliament Passes Amendments to End Vicious Cycle of Appeals

Bulgarian Parliament Passes Amendments to End Vicious Cycle of Appeals

Bulgaria's Parliament passed conclusively amendments to the Penal Procedure Code, thereby eliminating the possibility for trials to get stuck between court instances for indefinite periods of time.

The changes were initiated by MPs of center-right ruling party GERB, nationalist Ataka and the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).

Under the new regime, the Supreme Court of Cassation (VKS) will be empowered to conduct substantive examinations and issue final verdicts on cases returned to a court of lower instance in which the re-trial resulted in a decision which was again appealed before VKS.

According to Anastas Anastasov, GERB MP and Deputy Chair of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, the new provisions will prevent the indefinite postponement of final verdicts.

To illustrate the need for the amendments, Anastasov cited a case which was returned by VKS 14 times, with all decisions of the second-instance court re-appealed.

VKS will now be able to make a one-off return to a second-instance court and if the new decision again reaches third instance, VKS will have the final say.

Other amendments to the Penal Procedure Code passed conclusively on Thursday target persons evading justice.

Current legislation entitles people convicted in absentia to demand a renewal of the trial after they learn that they have been sentenced and that the verdict has taken effect.

Under the new regulations, if missing defendants cannot be reached to receive a copy of the indictment and the warning about the trial in absentia despite all efforts of the court, they will not have the right to a renewal of the trial.

A third set of amendments to the Penal Procedure Code passed on Thursday authorizes Customs Agency officials to carry out investigations on suspicions of customs crimes, currency crimes and tax crimes.

The step practically restores customs officials' criminal investigation powers of which they were stripped in 2005 over alleged inefficiency and doubling of the functions of the economic police, news portal dnevnik.bg reminds. (Source: Sofia News Agency)

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