Zero Tolerance and (near) Zero Acquittal

30 November, 2010

You don't want to mess around in Georgia. If arrested and prosecuted for a criminal offense, you only stand a 0.1% chance of being acquitted. In 2006 President Saakashvili called for “zero tolerance” of crime, and Supreme Court statistics show that this policy declaration has indeed been put into practice. Zero tolerance has meant that many more people are prosecuted than before. Compared to the data from 2003, when 8,402 persons were prosecuted, the number in 2006 more than doubled, to 17,155. The prosecution rates have fluctuated slightly since then, but have never gotten below the new benchmark set in 2006. It is difficult to imagine that Saakashvili's declaration caused an explosion in crime in Georgia since 2006, and the perceived environment has certainly not become any more dangerous than before. What the high numbers indicate is probably not increasing occurrence of crime, but rather improved detection or stricter prosecution. Zero tolerance has not been limited to prosecution in general, however. Indeed, a clear downward trend can be clearly identified when it comes to acquittal rates. According to Supreme Court data, the already very low acquittal rates (0.7% in 2003, 0.4% in 2004, and 0.8% in 2005) plummeted to 0.2% in 2006. Since then the figure has firmly stood at 0.1%. This means that those entering the Georgian criminal justice system stand basically no chance of getting out of it without punishment. So, if you do end up in the Georgian justice system, you are pretty sure to be convicted. The 0.1% could easily end up being the stuff of miracles.

Author: Mariam Gabedava