Monitoring of the case of Irina Ilyinichna Sukhanova (hearing on 01.20.2021)

On January 20, 2021, in the Shevchenkovsky District Court of Zaporozhye, a court hearing was held in case No. 336/5497/20 on charges of the premeditated murder of a young child by I. I. Sukhanova (paragraph 2, part 2, article 115 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). For the murder of a one-year-old girl, the teacher faces life imprisonment. The woman does not consider herself guilty, but as we indicated in the reports earlier, CCTV cameras recorded the woman’s violence against the girl. In order not to hear the crying of the child, she put a pillow on her face.

The court session was held with the participation of the prosecutor, the victims and their representative, the accused and her defenders, as well as two judges: O.Dmitryuk, E. Schastlivaya and the jury (main and substitute).

At the beginning of the court session, the defense raised objections to the actions of the presiding judge. The defense attorney pointed out that on January 6, 2021, the hearing was supposed to take place, but it was postponed for a reason that was determined not in a court hearing, but out of court, namely, due to the absence of one of the jurors. The defense attorney considered this to be an abuse of power. The defense attorney also drew the court’s attention to the possibility of replacing the main jury with a spare. In addition, in the opinion of the defense of the accused, the absence of a jury is grounds for challenging and in this case, it is necessary not to postpone the trial, but to summon the participants to decide on the challenge of such a juror.

The court reacted to the defense lawyer’s remark and pointed out that, firstly, an open court session could not take place due to the incomplete composition of the court, and even more so the issue of challenge with an incomplete composition of the court and the need to hear the explanations of the participant to whom the challenge was announced. Secondly, the case file contains documents confirming the validity of the reason for the non-appearance of the jury.

After that, the court continued to examine the evidence in the case. The video recording of the inspection of the scene, the protocol of the examination of the corpse and the protocols of the examination of things were examined.

After that, the court proceeded to consider the prosecution’s petition to extend the measure of restraint for the accused.

The prosecutor pointed out that the risks provided for in paragraphs 1, 3, 5 of part 1 of Article 177 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine continue to exist, namely: the accused may hide from the court, illegally influence the victims and witnesses who will be interrogated (she knows where they live), as well as commit another criminal offense. The prosecutor noted that there are no reasons for choosing a softer measure of restraint. Considering also the severity of the crime, the prosecution asked to extend the term of stay of I.I. Sukhanova in custody for another 60 days.

The representative of the victim supported the petition of the prosecutor and drew the court’s attention to the violation by the accused of her duties. In particular, while in the pre-trial detention center, she, contrary to the rules, used a mobile phone.

The accused objected to the prosecutor’s petition and noted that she was not going to influence the participants in the trial and hide from the court. The lawyers also objected to the extension of the accused’s detention. In their opinion, the risks indicated by the prosecutor are not justified, it is not taken into account that the accused has not committed crimes previously, there are no statements and complaints from victims and witnesses on the influence of I.I. Sukhanova. The defenders asked to change the measure of restraint of the accused to round-the-clock house arrest.

The court, after consulting, decided to extend the accused’s measure of restraint in the form of detention for a period of 60 days.

The accused has been in custody since June 2020, waiting for a court decision.

The European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter – the ECtHR) in paragraph 80 of the decision “Ilyikov v. Bulgaria” indicated that the severity of the prescribed punishment is an essential element in assessing the risk of absconding or re-committing crimes.

The ECtHR also repeatedly noted in its decisions that prolonged detention can only be justified when there are certain signs of the existence of a public interest, which, despite the presumption of innocence, outweighs the principle of respect for personal freedom (“Ilikov v. Bulgaria”, paragraph 84).

The ISHR Expert Council notes that in such a high-profile case, in which such grave consequences as the death of a young child take place, there is certainly a public interest. In addition, in the case of I. I. Sukhanova, witnesses and victims were not questioned, and the term of detention is about seven months, which cannot be considered excessive for the Ukrainian legal proceedings when court hearings are regularly held. Therefore, the need for detention cannot in this case be assessed as unfounded. However, we do not deny that there is a need to continue monitoring the court hearings in this case for the validity of the risks to extend the measure of restraint. Since in 2020, automatic prolongation of detention terms was one of the most common negative trends observed by the ISHR.

The International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor and clarify the details of this proceeding.