Principle of opportunity

Tristan Ploom
pp. 369-376


Legislators throughout the world are trying to make criminal procedure more effective and at the same time to restore or at least maintain public faith in the law enforcement system. One possibility for making the criminal procedure more speedy and effective in Estonia is the application of the principle of opportunity instead of the principle of legality which governs at present.
The article examines different modes of expression and the elements of the principle of opportunity, and focuses on the positive and negative aspects of its application that have been pointed out in theory. Also, problems which may rise de lege ferenda in the application of the principle of opportunity are addressed. The author also introduces the provisions concerning the principle of opportunity as proposed in the draft Estonian Criminal Procedure Act. Under the draft Act, the principle should be applied as an exception rather than a rule. The draft Act prescribes that the central role in the application of the principle of opportunity is played by the prosecutor who is exclusively competent to apply the principle in each specific case. Under the draft Act, the police should, however, strictly observe the principle of legality. At the same time, the author also stresses the importance of explaining the new principle in the media as the application of such a radical change without prior explanations may adversely affect the faith of the public in law enforcement authorities.