Speedy Criminal Justice in Dubai
William E. Gladstone once said in a public gathering that ‘justice delayed is justice denied.' But neither the person nor the concept was new to the anxious crowd. Regarding the person, Mr. Gladstone has served as the Prime Minister of United Kingdom more times than any anyone else. And regarding the phrase, the cumbersome process and delay in obtaining judgments have been an age-old issue in the litigation arena. Both the former and the latter had an enduring effect on the minds of the crowd present at that gathering.
Since we all know the reason of the former, let’s try and understand the importance of the term ‘justice delayed is justice denied.' It is not because courts do not provide equitable judgments or fail to exercise its authority to implement the rights of the people. But it is due to the time taken by the courts to pronounce these equitable judgments to enforce the rights of the citizens. Therefore, even a fair and just decision from the court may deny a party of his right due to the procedural delay in adjudication.
A unique characteristic of the law is its ability to be general as well as abstract. Hence, the law applies to everyone without any discrimination and therefore, in legal proceedings that require the separation of the case there is no difference between a case and another unless within the law. However, the adverse effects of lengthy and multiple litigation proceedings on the status quo of the matter(s) in both civil and criminal cases are common knowledge to us.
Criminal proceedings are extremely sensitive and affect the accused also since their freedom to travel is curtailed at the time of initiating the legal proceedings. This procedure is acceptable in certain crimes that require custody of the accused until the end of the trial, but in other minor offenses and fines, the effect of such action may be more significant than the punishment itself.
In some cases, the accused confesses and does not need to undergo trial sessions, investigations, and other criminal proceedings for research and trial because of the simplicity of the act and the clarity of the case and its confirmation. Therefore, most of the legislation aimed at establishing a system of speedy trial for previous considerations and eliminate the punishment of the accused in minor crimes, by limiting their sanctions to fines.
Such speedy trials are achieved through criminal orders which are drafted to ease the procedures and reduce the time taken for adjudication. Therefore, the accused is not mandated to be present for the investigation procedures and pleadings in front of the judiciary if they have confessed to the charge filed against them. Some of the countries that use criminal orders are France, Italy, Sweden, Germany, while Arabic nations are Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Algeria, Morocco, and some Gulf countries such as Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain.
What is a Criminal Order?
A criminal order is a judicial order issued by the body specified under the law (Public Prosecution - Judge) to impose a penalty of fine on the accused of an offense, generally without following the standard prolonged procedures of final investigations and pleading. However, the UAE Federal Code of Criminal Procedure does not contain an explicit definition regarding the system of criminal orders. Therefore, in this article, we have tried to elucidate the provisions regarding criminal orders in the Emirate of Dubai.
Following the above, the Emirate of Dubai issued Decree Number 1 of 2017 (the Law) on 30 January 2017 and published in the Official Gazette on 16 February 2017 to be implemented three (3) months after the date of its publication. The criminal order is defined in the Law as ‘a judicial decision issued by the member of the Public Prosecution to determine the subject of the criminal case with a fine without referring it to the competent court.’ This confers the office of the Public Prosecution with substantial authority since they are entitled to issue orders without the consent of the competent courts, who would otherwise adjudicate that particular matter. In Dubai, only the Public Prosecution has the authority to issue criminal orders, unlike some countries such as Egypt (where the order may be issued by the Public Prosecution or Judge) or Bahrain (where the judge issues the order at the request of the public prosecution).
The Law aims to accomplish the following objectives with the view of expediting trivial matters:-
- ensure that the criminal action is expeditiously resolved, without prejudice to fair trial guarantees;
- reduce the burden on the courts and reducing the number of criminal cases referred to it; and
- respond to the process of simplifying litigation procedures and reduce time, effort and expenses of the parties in criminal matters.
Scope of the Law
The scope of the Law is limited to trivial offenses such as misdemeanors and other offenses laid down by the legislative authorities from time to time. Therefore, the degree of sanctions under this Law is also considerably minor. The Law has imposed the following penalties on convicted parties in a case:
- Fine(s); and
- ‘Imprisonment and fine’ that the Attorney General shall determine, in a decision to be issued in this regard, on cases of misdemeanors and other offenses under the provisions of the Law. However, the provisions of this Law does not apply to the offenses of juvenile delinquents and displaced persons.
Under the Law, the Public Prosecution of the Emirate of Dubai may, issue a penal order against a person guilty of committing a crime by imposing a fine prescribed by law, provided this penalty does not exceed half of the maximum limit mentioned under the respective statute. The following illustration will provide more clarity in regard to the penalties: Suppose ‘A’ is convicted of violating Article 378 of the Penal Code that states that, ‘Whoever publish(es) news, pictures or comments related to the secrets of private (or family life) of persons even if they are true, shall be punished by detention for a period not exceeding one year and by a fine not exceeding UAE Dirhams ten thousand (AED 10,000), or by one of these two penalties.’ Therefore, in this case, the Public Prosecution may impose ‘A’ with a fine of UAE Dirhams five thousand (AED 5,000).
The Law states that the criminal order should contain all the relevant information regarding the case, the date when the order was issued, the name of the accused, the applicable legal text and the name of the prosecutor who issued the order and its degree. Further, the Public Prosecutor may pass the order and declare the accused even in the absence of the latter. However, in all cases, the accused must be reported by the means determined by the Attorney-General in this regard.
Can a Party Appeal to a Criminal Order?
Parties who are aggrieved by a criminal order may file an appeal against it. However, an appeal may not lie against a criminal order in the following cases:
- If the accused has not submitted an appeal (whether in person or through his appointed criminal lawyers in Dubai) within seven (7) days from the date of issuance of the order, provided the order was passed in the presence of the accused; or from the time of declaration if the defendant was not present when the order was passed.
- if the convict pays the penalty imposed on him.
However, if it the objection (or appeal) is raised by the accused, on it is considered as if it didn't happen and he will continue to face the criminal proceedings in ordinary ways.
Acting toward preserving the rights of the victim, and the compatibility between the time of issuing the criminal order and the dismissal of the civil dispute, the law further stipulates that claiming the civil right does not prevent issuing the criminal order. The penal order shall be executed by the rules prescribed in Federal Law No. (35) of 1992, and the Attorney General of the Emirate of Dubai shall issue the necessary decisions for the implementation of the provisions of this Law.
In our view of this Law, we find that it has come to achieve its goal which is the rapid dismissal of misdemeanors and minor offenses (including bounced cheques in Dubai) determined by the Attorney General, a system widely established in most countries, which we hope will become implemented throughout the UAE.
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