“In 2017, Lithuanian courts received almost 250,000 new cases and considered a similar number of them. The number of cases filed compared to the previous year has reduced by 21%. However, legal disputes have become more complex, and the workload of judges remains one of the heaviest in Europe”, – Rimvydas Norkus, Chair of the Judicial Council, presented statistical data to the public on 30 March.
“In recent years, the growth of cases filed has stabilised, and the effort of courts to encourage people to settle disputes amicably has yielded excellent results – last year, the number of civil disputes resolved by means of judicial mediation was 72% higher than in 2016, and as many as 50% of all judicial mediation processes ended in settlement agreements. Judicial mediation is particularly popular in family cases,” – Mr Norkus noted.
Most of the cases considered in courts, just like the previous year, were related to civil disputes – last year, more than 196,000 of them were received. As many as 41% of all investigated civil cases were on the issuance of a court order, also, compared to the previous year, the growing trend in bankruptcy cases was noticed. Last year, almost 4,500 of such cases were investigated. Typically, it took about three months to investigate a civil case in court.
The number of criminal cases filed amounted to over 20,000 last year and increased by 20% compared to 2016. This is associated with the increase in the number of registered criminal acts in the country – in 2017, it rose by 7%. Following the adoption of the amendments to the Criminal Code and having imposed criminal liability on drivers under the influence of alcohol whose blood alcohol level was more than 1.5 promilles, last year recorded almost 3,600 of such cases; fixed term imprisonment was imposed on 189 persons.
The number of filed administrative cases amounted to more than 11,000, which is 22% less than in 2016; and the number of cases on administrative offences reduced by as many as 72%. This change is linked to the entry into force of the new Code of Administrative Offences and amendments to the Criminal Code. Most frequently committed administrative offences in 2017 were related to offences in the field of traffic, attempt to commit a crime related to property and public order. Such cases were investigated by courts within, on average, 22 days.
Last year, over 18,000 natural and legal persons were convicted which is 2,700 more than in 2016. Punishments that were imposed for crimes most often included penalties, fixed term imprisonment and restriction on the freedom.
“Although sometimes the general public thinks that court imposes too mild punishments, we, actually are among the leading countries in the European Union in terms of imprisoned persons. For this reason, practice has developed for a number of years where given the circumstances of specified cases courts try to impose punishments that are not related to imprisonment first. Yet, to change the situation substantially, the efforts of the judicial system are not enough,” – Mr Norkus elaborated on the punishment policy prevailing in Lithuania.
According to the chairman, last year, courts also managed to retain the quality of justice: “In 2017, just like before, Lithuanian courts remained among the leaders in Europe in terms of the duration of case investigation. The quality of court rulings is also high – only 1.67% of 252,000 decisions passed by courts were changed or annulled by a superior court”.
Court statistics shows that in 2017 courts succeeded in reducing the remainder of the case backlog. Moreover, in the recent three years, the number of cases on criminal and administrative offences that protracted more than a year has reduced by half.
As Mr Norkus stated, justice administration is not restricted solely by a number of investigated cases – special attention has been given to security of the participants of legal proceedings for more than a year: “Considerable effort was put in endeavouring to ensure the psychological security of the young participants of legal proceedings. By increasing the number of psychologists we continued introducing hundreds of security measures, and the assistance of court volunteers was provided to thousands of court visitors.”
As the chairman put it, the efficiency of court performance depends on judges’ workload and the resources allocated to courts by the state. Last year, the courts faced considerable challenges with regard to these areas: “On the basis of experience of the strongest European countries, we successfully implemented reorganisation of courts last year – the reduction of the number of courts helped us increase the pace of operation, allocate the finances of courts in a more effective manner, and ensure better conditions to citizens to address courts as well as enhance customer service. We hope that all these measures will help making justice even more accessible to people.”
To guarantee a fast and convenient resolution of problems, courts kept pace with the development of new technology. “We have become modernised apace – last year, more than 800 remote court hearings were organised. The number of users of e.teismas.lt, a website of digital court services, has increased by 40% a year. You can get court permission without leaving your home within 24 hours. We are among the top four EU countries in terms of the possibility to submit documents to the court electronically, where applicable,” chairman Norkus elaborated further on the details of the report.
You can find a brief review of court performance for the year 2017 here.
You can download the full version of the 2017 court performance report here.