High Council of Justice ready to consider complaints against judge in high-profile underage rape case

28 March, 06:50 PM
High Council of Justice ready to consider complaints against judge in high-profile underage rape case (Photo:САП)

High Council of Justice ready to consider complaints against judge in high-profile underage rape case (Photo:САП)

The High Council of Justice promises to investigate complaints against judge Oksana Sofilkanych, who sentenced three teenagers to probation in the high-profile case of the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl in Zakarpattya Oblast, said a message on the HCJ’s website on March 27.

Judiciary council member Roman Maselko assured that "no one will be covered up."

The High Council of Justice noted that registered complaints about the judge's disciplinary offense and her report of "interference in (her) activity" will be investigated and given an objective assessment in accordance with the law.

Video of day

According to Maselko, the court proceedings changed the qualification of the crime from a more serious one (rape) to a less serious one (sexual violence), stating that "this is what allowed for a relatively lenient punishment to be applied to the rapists."

"But this was not initiated by the court, but by prosecutors, and the judge could no longer apply the more serious qualification," Maselko wrote on Facebook on March 28.

"Therefore, when sentencing, the judge was significantly limited by the position of the prosecutors and had to take into account the actions of the accused (sincere repentance) and the opinion of the victim."

At the same time, Maselko emphasizes that "there are also questions to the judge," but the HCJ has the right to check her actions only by initiating disciplinary proceedings — it can be opened only if a disciplinary complaint is filed.

"If a complaint is filed against the judge, the HCJ will ensure its objective consideration as soon as the disciplinary practice is restored," assured Maselko. "We are not going to cover anyone up."

The High Council of Justice pointed out that it has no authority to interfere in court proceedings, assess the evidence available in the case, verify the legality and validity of court decisions, or comment on them.

For example, verification of the legality and validity of a court decision is the competence of a higher court, i.e. the court of appeal. The Office of the Prosecutor General announced on March 27 that the prosecutor's office would appeal the verdict.

The crime took place in August 2021. Three underage residents of the village of Verkhni Vorota committed "acts of a sexual nature" against a 14-year-old girl in the basement, as the court characterized it. The teenagers filmed everything to blackmail her. They later uploaded the video of the abuse online.

On March 16, 2023, a judge of the Volovets District Court sentenced the teenagers to five years in prison, but released them from punishment, giving all three of them a two-year probationary period.

In reaching its decision, the court took into account that the defendants are minors, have no criminal records, pleaded guilty, and repented. The court also relied on "positive character references" written by schoolteachers. They considered imprisonment "too severe a punishment."

The incident and verdict caused a backlash among public figures and politicians in Ukraine, who criticized the actions of the judges and teachers.

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