False witnesses can end up in prison under new bill - report
Presently Russian law punishes perjury only by fines of up to 80,000 rubles, or about $2000. A prison sentence of up to five years is possible if a witness lies within a hearing into a grave case, but prosecutors would still have a hard time proving that the false testimony was a deliberate lie and not an honest mistake.
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily that broke the story claims that this causes serious problems to courts as convictions can only be based on witness testimony.
The main sponsor of the bill, MP Roman Khudyakov of the Liberal Democratic Party caucus told the newspaper that both the defense and prosecution often used false testimonies in court processes and through this many honest people had their lives shattered. He added that in some cases people hired several false witnesses and completely innocent people received prison sentences in such ploys.
Khudyakov suggests that false witnesses receive real prison sentences of at least a year. He said that similar laws in foreign countries – like the USA – had proved that such measures could be effective.
Federal Judge Dmitry Novikov commented that the problem of perjury existed but added that often it was based on low professionalism of judges. However, the judge said that he had not seen a single case started against a lying witness in 15 years of work and called the LDPR initiative correct and even extremely mild. “If they started giving 10 years and demonstrate the seriousness of their intent in a couple of dozen cases people would quickly become more honest,” he said.
In addition, the judge criticized the way police investigators use to report their work. “As long as we have a box ticking system and investigators get punished for closing the cases, half of the court testimonies would be lies. There is no guarantee that it would be truthful,” the judge noted.