Resume: Bidzina Ivanishvili talked about the outcomes of reforms implemented in the judiciary and provided different statistical data to assess the efficiency of the common courts. Among other things, Mr Ivanishvili underscored the bail figure (meaning the total amount of money imposed as bail).
It is impossible to calculate how the total amount of bail money decreased because as clarified by the Supreme Court of Georgia and Tbilisi City Court, these kinds of data are not processed in the court system.
The primary source of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s statement is the 2013-2016 Report of the High Council of Justice’s Activities. In accordance with the report, the total amount of bail money imposed by Tbilisi City Court (Tbilisi City Court alone and not other courts of first instance) has indeed dropped by 18 times (2009-2012 and 2013-2016 figures are compared).
Bidzina Ivanishvili’s figures are Tbilisi City Court’s numbers only and they do not reflect the situation in the whole country. Moreover, these statistics reflect the picture for 2016 and not the latest one. In addition, of note is that this figure (even if bail money was indeed significantly reduced) taken separately cannot be a measure of the efficiency of the courts. These are just numbers for the public aiming to make an impact.
FactCheck is working to verify other statements of Bidzina Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream’s political council members in regard to the court system and we will publish our respective research studies in the nearest future.
On 9 April 2019, on air on the TV show, Pirispir, the Chair of the Georgian Dream, Bidzina Ivanishvili, spoke about improvements in the judiciary. To illustrate his claim, Mr Ivanishvili named several figures and paid attention to the decrease in the total amount of bail money imposed by the courts as a preventive punishment. He stated (from 38:00): “Bail money decreased by 18 times (from GEL 91 million to GEL 5 million) and this money usually came from the population’s pockets.”
In accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code of Georgia, bail is one of the forms of preventive punishment that is imposed upon an accused individual in order to keep him from fleeing jurisdiction, prevent his further criminal activity and ensure the enforcement of a court sentence.
After the imposition of bail and before the announcement of the final sentence, the accused deposits bail money in the National Enforcement Agency’s account or property in a value equivalent to this money which is under his ownership as determined by the court. If the aforementioned accused individual breaches the conditions of the punishment or violates the law, his bail will be replaced by a stricter punishment measure based on the prosecutor’s appeal. In addition, the bail money will be transferred to the state budget whilst immovable property will be handed over for seizure.
In the case when the accused fully complies with the commitments and in good faith and his preventive punishment is not replaced with a stricter punishment, he receives back the amount of the bail money in full or his property is returned in a month after the court’s announcement of the sentence. Therefore, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s portrayal of the issue of bail money being taken from the pockets of citizens is incorrect. It is possible that in certain cases the bail money is transferred to the budget although the paying of bail money does not necessarily mean a fulfilment of the budget and a monetary loss.
In regard to the amount of bail money (which should not be less than GEL 1,000), the court defines it based on the severity of the crime and the accused individual’s material well-being. As clarified by the European Court of Human Rights, a national court is obliged to be considerate whilst determining the amount of bail during a decision vis-à-vis a jail sentence (p. 88).
Accurately determining the bail money amount by the court is important because if the accused is unable to pay the imposed bail, it can be replaced with a stricter preventive punishment. Therefore, the imposition of an unjustified or inappropriately large bail could be equal to imprisonment (p. 21).
Taking this into account, the total amount of bail money imposed by the court could be informative to some extent – to study whether or not a court’s practice to impose bail as a preventive punishment is carried out justly and in good faith. However, that would not be enough to make the right conclusions. At the same time, we have to know the following:
- The amount of requests by prosecutors to impose bail in a certain period of time as well as the total amount of bail money requested by prosecutors and the ratio of the court’s fulfilling the prosecutors’ requests.
- Of importance is the court’s practice of justifying a bail decision and determining the amount of bail.
- The average amount of bail money imposed on an accused in a specific period of time.
- The number of times bail has been changed into a stricter preventive punishment – imprisonment – because of a failure to pay.
Therefore, Bidzina Ivanishvili’s emphasis on the total volume of bail money alone and, in addition, not indicating the specific periods of time that are being compared to one other or the imposed bail figures (as one of the forms of preventive punishment) in those periods is useless even if that figure had indeed decreased by 18 times.
Nevertheless, FactCheck tried to verify his statement and asked the Supreme Court of Georgia to provide information about the volume of money received from the imposition of bail as a preventive punishment in 2003-2018 (letter N30, 05/02/2019).
The Supreme Court of Georgia did not provide us with that information. They clarified that bail money is not registered in court statistics and they lack the possibility to grant our request (letter NP-102-19, 12/02/2091).
FactCheck took interest in the fact that if such kinds of data are not processed in the court system, then how did they end up in the hands of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the Georgian Dream’s political council and TV Imedi? As a reminder, prior to Mr Ivanishvili’s interview, these figures appeared in the Georgian Dream’s political council’s statement. Several days before that statement (on 22 January 2019), TV Imedi in its broadcast, Pirispir, presented statistical data in regard to the court system together with other figures which are almost identical to Mr Ivanishvili’s numbers.
It turned out that both of them (Bidzina Ivanishvili and the Georgian Dream’s political council, on the one hand, and TV Imedi, on the other hand), whilst presenting the aforementioned figures to the public, based their information on the 2013-2016 report of the High Council of Justice’s activities. This report, in addition to it being reflective of data including 2016 (therefore, making statements in 2019 based on that very report is groundless), does not contain the joint figures of the common courts (meaning the entire Georgia) but only Tbilisi City Court’s figures.
The report reads (pp. 13-14): “In 2009-2012, the total amount of imposed bail was GEL 91,415,521 whilst in 2013-2016 that amount was GEL 5,266,000. Therefore, we have a 94% in decrease. Moreover, to compare, bail money amounted GEL 30,999,000 in 2011 whilst bail money was GEL 611,500 in 2016.”
After consulting the report, we asked Tbilisi City Court to provide FactCheck with these aforementioned figures (letter N38, 15/02/2019). At the same time, we sent a letter to the Supreme Court of Georgia, pointing out the report of the High Council of Justice (letter N40, 15/02/2019). The aim of highlighting this information to the Supreme Court of Georgia was to understand how such information, which is not processed in the court, appeared in the High Council of Justice’s report. The Supreme Court of Georgia, however, refrained from making a clarification (letter NP-146-19, 26/02/2019).
In regard to Tbilisi City Court, it also refused to give us data, claiming that Tbilisi City Court does not process this type of data (letter N1-0434/4274, 21/02/2019). This time, we again pointed out the High Council of Justice’s report and asked Tbilisi City Court for clarification (letter N51, 25/02/2019). Tbilisi City Court replied as follows: “In regard to your reference to the report published by the High Council of Justice, we would like to inform you that the information in the report is available to any interested party” (letter N3-0421/2870206-5153, 07/03/2019).
Of further note is that FactCheck addressed (letter N50, 25/02/2019) the High Council of Justice to gain an understanding of the issue. We asked the High Council of Justice to precisely indicate the source and the agency whose information was used in their report; in particular, in analysing data about bail money. The High Council of Justice took more than a month to reply (letter N334/482-03-o) and finally gave the following answer: “Since information used in the 2013-2017 report on the High Council of Justice’s activities cannot be retrieved in a systematised form in Tbilisi City Court, it was processed by the officials themselves who were involved in drafting the report based on information available in Tbilisi City Court.”
It is unknown to us what procedures and which officials were involved in the drafting of the report in order to process the information available in Tbilisi City Court. However, it is a fact that this kind of data is currently not being processed/registered.