Who are the 'untouchables'? Judicial robe vs. police baton 

Who are the 'untouchables'? Judicial robe vs. police baton
A drunk judge of prosecutor can not even be prohibited from driving a car Photo: The CrimeRussia

Judges and prosecutors have got an official permission for drunk driving. The MIA has amended the new Administrative Regulations of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate; its officers can not bring to liability representatives of the judicature and watchdog agency anymore. State road traffic safety inspectors can not even prohibit an intoxicated special subject from driving a car. The CrimeRussia was figuring out how judges and prosecutors managed to obtain such an immunity.

“The police allows judges to drink and drive,” – this news has hit the headlines after the publication of amendments to the Administrative Regulations for Supervision of the Observance of Road Users’ Compliance with the Legislation. The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation has indeed introduced a ban on holding judges liable for administrative offences. In other words, state road traffic safety inspectors can not pull over judges and prosecutors, arrest them, or send for medical examination for alcohol and drugs. In fact, they never had such powers. 

It turned out that the new regulations hadn’t clarified the actions of inspectors interacting with special subjects, including judges and prosecutors. The immunity of this category of citizens is stipulated in the Russian legislation. For instance, Article 16 of the Federal Law on the Status of Judges directly designates the immunity of judges and their assets. According to paragraph 4 of Article 16, any decision on the question of bringing a judge to administrative responsibility shall be adopted by the judicial college in the composition of three judges of, respectively, the Supreme Court of the Republic, the territorial or the regional court, the court of a city of federal importance, the court of the autonomous region, the court of an autonomous area – at the presentation of the Prosecutor-General of the Russian Federation. If the personality of a judge could not have been known at the moment of detention, he shall be subject to an immediate release after his identification. 

The Federal Law on the Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation stipulates similar restrictions with regards to the arrest, detention, and personal search of prosecutors. According to Article 42 of that law, any verification of reports of infringements committed by prosecutors or investigators employed in the prosecution service, the institution of criminal proceedings against them (except in cases where the prosecutor or investigator was caught in the act of committing a crime) and the conduct of the investigation shall fall within the exclusive competence of the Prosecutor’s Office. 

A drunk judge or prosecutor can not even be prohibited from driving a car. A traffic safety inspector can only submit a traffic offence report to the division commander or draw-up an administrative protocol at suspicion on drunk driving. Such a loyal attitude to special subjects – so dangerous for other road users – is explained by the need to protect them from pressure exercised by traffic safety inspectors. Allegedly, state road inspectors can put pressure on judges or prosecutors “by groundlessly bringing them to liability”.

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notes

The recently-amended Order № 664 has replaced the notorious obsolete Order № 185 regulating the interaction between traffic safety inspectors and road users. In has been approved in August 2017 and came into effect in October 2017. The new document has been amended following a request from the Prosecutor General's Office that considered some of its provisions inconsistent with the current legislation. By the way, the original version of the Order № 185 had empowered traffic safety inspectors to prohibit intoxicated judges and prosecutors from driving and draw-up administrative protocols against them. But the Prosecutor General's Office had requested to remove this provision from the order.

The new order has already sparked a public stir. Deputy Valery Rashkin submitted a request to Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, asking to specify the grounds for the departmental order regulating the interaction between traffic safety inspectors and judges-offenders.

The MIA responded that the amendments affect paragraph 301 of the regulations that have come into effect in October 2017. 

“The introduced amendments with regards to the correction of provisions of the administrative regulations referred to by you are caused by the need to bring those in line with provisions of the Federal Law on the Status of Judges in the Russian Federation № 3132-I of June 26, 1992,” – states the response signed by Aleksander Gorovoy, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. 

Earlier, the MIA regulations had empowered road safety inspectors to prohibit certain categories of intoxicated officials from driving and send them for medical examination despite their special status. The new amendments state as follows: «Delete the word “judges” from paragraph 301».

Now an inspector suspecting a judge of drunk driving must report this to the division commander of the Road Patrol Service for further submission to the prosecutor. 

Interestingly, the list of persons enjoying the special status includes, in addition to judges, many other categories of officials, including Deputies, – but their immunity is weaker.

Immediately after the enactment of the new Administrative Regulations, a few incidents clearly demonstrating why judges need such an immunity have occurred.

On the morning of November 12, 2017, a BMW X3 driven by Aleksander Gudkin, judge of the Azov Town Court, has crossed into the oncoming lane near the entrance to Azov and crashed into a Kia Sportage. The female driver of the Kia managed to avoid a head-on crash – but the vehicles have still collided tangentially and the child in the Korean car was injured. Instead of asking about the health of other participants of the traffic accident, Gudkin stepped out of his car and started changing the license plates. Instead of prestigious “555” plates, he has attached similarly lucrative “007” ones. No one can say what was the purpose of this license plate replacement...

The witnesses told that the man was drunk: allegedly, there was a strong smell of alcohol from him and he was shaking. In the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Division, the judge said that he was just a passenger and named some Marchenko the driver. In fact, Marchenko has arrived to the scene in an Audi later. In late November, the judge has submitted a resignation letter, but contrary to the ‘corporate solidarity’, the judicial commission hasn’t satisfied his request. Aleksander Gudkin was brought to disciplinary liability by way of premature termination of his judicial powers and deprivation of the judge’s qualification class. The resignation letter submitted by Gudkin after the traffic accident has been examined and rejected. His driver’s license was not revoked for the refusal to undergo a medical examination. Civil claims for non-pecuniary damages filed against him are drowning in judicial delays. 

On November 13, 2017, at 4 a.m., a Land Rover belonging to Georgy Ermolov, judge of Prikubansky District Court, has driven through a red light at a street intersection in Krasnodar and rammed into a VAZ-2114. Its driver has survived by miracle and had to spent a few months in a hospital. Two passengers of the VAZ-2114 were killed. The witnesses state that the driver of the SUV has left the scene in a rickety manner and surrendered to the police a few hours later. However, according to the witnesses, it was not Georgy Ermolov – but a totally different person. 27-year-old Roman Kovalenko, the judge’s driver, has been charged for this traffic accident. An expert assessment commissioned by the investigation has concluded that Kovalenko was behind the wheel – not the judge. The forensic medical examination has found that Ermolov was also injured. “They say that the judge has harmed himself. His injuries are minor, just some bruises. The forensic scientist states that these injures had been inflicted a few days before the traffic accident,” – Maksim Sinyapko, lawyer for the victim party, states. The investigator says that there is no strong evidence making it possible to identify the person who has stepped out of the driver's seat of the Range Rover immediately after the crash. Driver Kovalenko currently remains in the pretrial detention facility pending the trial. No one has offered condolences to victims’ relatives...

In November 2017, a Toyota Land Cruiser driven by Miroslava Mizyakina, judge of the Tsentralny District Court of Volgograd, has caused an accident involving five cars. Two Hovers, VAZ-2115, and Daweoo were damaged. The woman had behaved inadequately and, according to other drivers, was intoxicated. Mizyakina left the scene in an ambulance asking the medics for assistance. According to Novosti Volgograda (Volgograd New) agency, medical tests have shown 1.1 per mil of alcohol in her blood. Fortunately, no one was injured. It is unknown whether the judge was prosecuted for that traffic accident or not.    

The ‘mass intoxication’ of judges in the period when they could be brought to liability implies that some supreme powers have taken steps to exclude the word “judges” from the new Administrative Regulations. The special subjects have got a complete immunity in such episodes discrediting the judicial robe.

In addition, it is difficult to find examples of illegitimate pressure allegedly put by road traffic safety inspectors on judges “by groundlessly bringing them to liability”. 

The Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation is now trying to gain powers to institute criminal cases against special subjects. A draft Federal Law on Amendments to the Criminal-Procedural Code of the Russian Federation has already been prepared. Currently, only the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) can institute criminal cases against special subjects – but this pertains only to criminal liability. Drunk driving entails only administrative liability yet. Judges and prosecutors have always been a privileged category; their immunity is based on the Federal Law on the Status of Judges and Federal Law on the Prosecutor's Office of the Russian Federation. 

It is necessary to note though that, according to Article 1.4 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation, persons who have committed administrative offences shall be equal before law the regardless of their sex, race, nationality, language, origin, property or official status, residence, attitude to religion, opinions, participation in social associations, or other circumstances. In other words, no one is above the law. 

Nor do the Traffic Rules of the Russian Federation divide road uses into ‘drivers’ and ‘special subjects’. The laws of chemistry determining the effects of alcohol on the human body and the laws of physics determining the behavior of vehicles moving at high speed are above the Laws on the Status of Judges and on the Prosecutor's Office.

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