On September 15, the Supreme Court acquitted Volodymyr Ponomarenko, ex-judge of the Cherkasy oblast Court of Appeal, overturning the verdict of the Anti-Corruption Court. The latter in February 2021 sentenced Ponomarenko to 2 years in prison for a bribe of UAH 30,000. The decision to overturn the guilty verdict was made by Supreme Court judges Serhii Fomin, Herman Anisimov, and Olha Buleiko.

What happened?

According to the investigation, in 2018, the judge received UAH 30,000 for influencing the decision of another judge. Ponomarenko had to make an agreement with the judge of the Sosnovskyi District Court of Cherkasy on not bringing to justice one of the defendants in the case for driving under the influence.

On February 19, the first instance of the HACC found judge Volodymyr Ponomarenko guilty and sentenced him to a two-year imprisonment. On April 21, the HACC Appeals Chamber left the verdict unchanged.

On September 15, according to media reports, the Cassation of the Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Anti-Corruption Court and closed the proceedings.

This decision of the Supreme Court is worrisome, given the role of the Supreme Court in the judicial system.

Why did the Supreme Court overturn the decision of the Anti-Corruption Court?

The court of the cassation instance (the Criminal Court of Cassation within the Supreme Court — the Constitutional Court of the Supreme Court) may overturn decisions and close proceedings based on three grounds:

  • significant violation of the requirements of the Criminal Procedural Code,
  • incorrect application of the Criminal Code of Ukraine,
  • non-compliance of the punishment with the severity of the crime.

The Supreme Court probably used the first ground.

Significant violations of the Criminal Procedural Code are the reasons that could prevent the court from making a decision. It can be assumed that the Constitutional Court of the Supreme Court overturned the verdict, allegedly on the basis that after Ponomarenko was notified of suspicion, the pre-trial investigation period expired. The charges were brought already outside this period, which the lawyers took advantage of and filed an appeal.

By the way, the HACC Appeals Chamber has already considered such arguments of the defenders in this regard and has not found confirmation of them.

What could such a Supreme Court’s decision mean?

In our opinion, the Anti-Corruption Court calculated this period correctly. After all, as noted in the decision of the Appeal, at the time of familiarization with the case, the time limits are interrupted. Therefore, the prosecution had another 6 days left, which the SAPO took advantage of and prepared an indictment.

However, if such a ground really formed the basis of the decision, then the decision of the Supreme Court has a dubious legal nature and reasonableness.

It is worth noting that one of the powers that the Supreme Court has is to unify the application of legal norms and generalize judicial practice.

In other words, with such decisions, the Supreme Court sets “trends” in judicial practice that cause concern and remind of the need for a full-fledged judicial reform and the formation of a cassation instance, the decisions of which will not cause doubts.

Therefore, we once again return to the issue of the high-quality judicial reform. Of course, it is too early to talk about the motives and legal quality of the decision before the ruling is published. However, this situation once again proves that any court decision can be broken by a poorly reformed Supreme Court.