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Sequence of events:

November 2019: Person A and Person B are caught shoplifting at a major grocery chain in Lviv

December 2019 - February 2020: Deposition/Discovery happens. First hearing. They plead guilty and Judge gives a date for next hearing in March 2020

March 2020: No hearing. They get a call from their advocate that next date is in April.

April 2020 - July 2020: Covid hits. New date received in August 2020.

August 2020: No hearing. They get a call from their advocate that next date is in September.

September 2020: Hearing happens. Judge says he cannot pronounce the sentence as injured party is not present. New date October 2020

October 2020: No hearing. They get a call from their advocate that next date is in November.

My question: Can the court just change the date without accused being present? It looks like "court business" is being conducted over the phone.

Is there something goofy going on in here or is this normal in Ukraine?

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  • Are you sure this is a criminal trial? Criminal trials, at least under US law, rarely have deposition or discovery, nor do the presence of "injured parties" prevent the pronouncement of sentence, as the "injured party" in a criminal case is the state/people.
    – sharur
    Oct 22 '20 at 1:40
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    According to the lawyer, it is a criminal proceeding.
    – Asdfg
    Oct 22 '20 at 2:39
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    @sharur Many criminal court systems have discovery and depositions (primarily by defense counsel) and the requirement that an injured party be allowed to attend a sentencing hearing for an economic crime is also not at all uncommon.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 27 at 8:35
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The parties have an ‘advocate’

When the court communicates with the advocate, it’s communicating with the parties - the advocate is the parties’ agent.

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Can the court just change the date without accused being present?

Yes.

Is there something goofy going on in here or is this normal in Ukraine?

This is not goofy or suspicious. This has become normal in almost every court system in the developed or developing world during the COVID pandemic.

Most court systems in the world transitioned to doing more of their business, that was historically done in person, by telephone and other means that are not in person (like motion practice and video conferencing) as a result of COVID.

Most court systems have also relaxed many speedy trial deadlines that applied pre-COVID out of practical necessity. In cases where guilt is no longer an issue and only sentencing is a concern, this is even more common.

Generally speaking, a court in criminal case in most European legal systems cannot conduct a hearing without a party present (at least remotely), but can cancel a hearing without a party present and can then reschedule it with proper notice to the persons required by law.

For example, even pre-COVID, courts routinely cancelled hearings when extreme weather, or natural disasters, or problems with the physical courthouse like a heating system failure, or a bomb threat directed at the courthouse, or simply too many judges with the flu at once, made it impossible for the courts to conduct any or all of their scheduled business, without doing so in person.

Pre-COVID, these instances were rare, happening only every few years. During COVID, these kinds of issues became routine almost everywhere.

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