4. Towards excellence in the Latvian prosecution system

How is success measured in prosecution? Is it conviction rates, the outcome of specific important cases, or less criminality? What information can prosecutors rely on to make management decisions? This chapter focuses on addressing these questions from the perspective of international good practices and standards, as well as how to drive forward an overall successful performance of the prosecution. It proposes to leverage the Prosecutor General’s Office existing strategic plans to set clear targets and assign resources accordingly, with a view to increasing efficiency of work processes through performance-oriented management. It explores the establishment of a robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism through data to ensure that the level of achievement of objectives can be adequately assessed. This includes a focus on the use of qualitative indicators and involvement of the whole-of-justice chain in the strive towards excellence. It considers the introduction of measures for improving the speed and amount of prosecutions, such as standardisation and simplification.

Until recently, not much empirical research was available to address these concerns. However, increasingly, a growing international trend signals towards the need to improve the quality and performance of prosecution services,1 in order to increase satisfaction and trust of the public in the justice system (Ivan-Cucu, 2015[1]). Over the past two decades, the majority of OECD member countries have implemented reforms to improve the performance-oriented management of public sector organisations. When used properly, performance assessments allow for the recognition of individual and collective efforts in an objective and transparent manner. Such practices also function to clarify organisational goals for staff so that they gain a better understanding of their role within the organisation and therefore how to best implement change and contribute towards strategic organisational objectives. Performance assessments and management requires the presence of indicators, of which several sets have been developed internationally (see Box 4.1).

Prosecution systems seek on the one hand to promote the fair, impartial, and expeditious pursuit of justice, guaranteeing the procedural rights of the accused and the protection of victims and witnesses; and on the other, more broadly, to ensure safer communities by reducing crime. The standards of the European Union signal in addition to the importance of appropriate management of the length of judicial proceedings through measuring the number of unresolved cases, the clearance rate2 and the number of pending cases (See Box 4.1). There are also growing reflections on the creation of actionable frameworks for prosecution excellence (Albers, 2016[3]) (inspired by the International Framework of Court Excellence3). For example, elements related to prosecution excellence could include: 1) management (including management of resources) and leadership; 2) prosecution policies and plans; 3) efficient prosecution procedures; 4) effective co-operation with relevant justice and police authorities; 5) a high quality of prosecution case files (indictments); 6) a high level of user satisfaction and public trust; and 7) a high level of accessibility (Albers, 2016[3]).

As such, throughout this chapter and in the rest of the report, the achievement of excellence in the prosecution system along those lines will be understood as a guiding beacon to propose key policy recommendations for Latvia, also drawing on the experiences of benchmarked OECD countries.

Six key performance drivers have been identified throughout this Study to be among the top mechanisms used by prosecution systems in OECD benchmarked countries and in Latvia to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the system. Many of them are used in conjunction with each other. They are the following:

  1. 1. Establishment of strategic objectives and goals (see below).

  2. 2. Development of a Quality Management System.

  3. 3. Specialisation and training of prosecutors (further analysed in Chapter 5).

  4. 4. Standardisation and simplification (see below).

  5. 5. Bonuses depending on the good results achieved by individual prosecutors.

  6. 6. Prioritisation and diversion measures (as outlined in Chapter 3).

These six measures will not be analysed in detail here as they have largely been addressed in other sections of the report. Nonetheless, Box 4.2 provides some examples of the main strategies followed by OECD benchmarked countries to introduce performance drivers in their systems.

Taking management practices of institutions to excellence involves as a key pillar the need to introduce strategic planning, in order to set clear objectives and targets and assign resources accordingly. In addition, it requires the establishment of a robust monitoring and evaluation mechanism through data to ensure that the level of achievement of objectives can be adequately assessed, and to allow for evidence-based policy making with the potential to address any gaps in the structure and functioning of the system. Prosecution services operating in different legal systems have developed different ways to deal with this challenge. Efficiency, competence, speed, economic rationality and accountability should all be considered. Today more than ever, the role of the prosecution service requires training, specialisation, prioritisation, effective control, co-ordination and direction of the criminal proceedings, and finally a good digital support of organisational processes allowing for information sharing among the principal actors in the fight against criminality. The subsequent sections focus on advancing these practices in the Latvian PGO.

Development of a criminal prosecution strategy, which could include a strategic plan, accompanied by yearly operational plans, containing clear performance targets, human, material and financial resources required, could serve as a core first step to drive performance excellence in prosecution services. A number of efforts in the direction of strategic planning have already been made by the Latvian PGO through Strategy plans, the latest being the Strategy of the Prosecution Office for 2017-2021 (approved by the Prosecutor General’s Council Decision No.4 of 5 July 2017). This plan outlines the following five overarching objectives:

  • effective and qualitative fulfillment of the Prosecution Office functions in fighting financial and economical crimes

  • ensuring the development of the Prosecution Office Information System (further referred as “ProIS”)

  • improving of the internal legal acts system of the Prosecution Office

  • improving the work environment of Prosecutors and employees of the Prosecution Office.

It then describes smaller activities that must be reached to achieve each of the five objectives. To provide an example, in order to ensure the effective and qualitative fulfillment of the prosecutor office functions in fighting financial and economic crimes, a smaller target is to “periodically include into the Prosecution Office Work Plan the conducting of the checks in the structures of the Prosecution Office regarding the efficiency and quality of the investigation supervision and criminal prosecution of the financial and economical crimes.” In order to take the current strategic plan to the next level, further steps could be taken to establish, on the one hand, clear and measurable goals (e.g. instead of proposing to fight crime effectively, propose a percentage in the decrease of criminality nationally for particular types of crimes that is sought, or the case prosecution ratio that is desired); and on the other hand, the establishment of a clear and quantifiable roadmap that will take the Office to the results. This latter exercise could include a specific allocation of resources to reach a given goal. Finally, it could include a system and indicators to measure the level of attainment of the objectives. For example in Denmark, setting specific objectives and targets and monitoring its success enabled the system to increase productivity by 3.9% from 2013 to 2016 (See Box 4.3).

To build on the current efforts, Latvia may consider examples of the way OECD benchmarked countries define their strategic priorities and operationalise the results to achieve increased efficiency and efficacy of the system. Some of the key ways in which OECD benchmarking countries have driven their results include defining quantitative targets to assess progress and mandatory deadlines, for example through a weighted production model taking into account production, processing time, and reduction of old charges; engaging different actors from across the justice chain in their strategic plans; and increasing training for prosecutors (Box 4.3).

Understanding whether the established strategy and plans are effectively implemented and achieving the desired results, performance measurement is a crucial step. In this regard, two aspects must be present: first, the existence of mechanisms to record and report on performance; second, the existence of relevant statistics and data to substantiate the reports. Across the OECD membership analysed as a part of this study, the obligation to report on performance in quantitative and qualitative term is widespread, including in Latvia:

Establishing robust indicators to measure performance, along with practical ways to gather all the information necessary to assess performance under such indicators, are both key elements to enable evidence-based policy formulation and improvement. If applied wisely, statistics, targets and orientation towards results can be used to focus resources effectively and drive performance in policing and law enforcement. Additional ways in which data can support the fulfilment of strategic plans towards excellence are summarised in Box 4.4.

The way in which statistics are interpreted in prosecution systems should be carefully considered. As will be further analysed in Chapter 5 of this Report, the idea of “winning or losing” a criminal case if the case was decided according to law should not be a deciding factor in assessing a prosecutor’s performance or lack thereof. A broader perspective must be taken, in the understanding that raising the conviction rate can be easily achieved by only prosecuting the most straightforward cases. It is thus relevant not only to collect statistics, but also to establish indicators for interpretation of data.

In the Latvian system, two main types of relevant data gathering take place. Firstly, and as established in 2020, the Prosecution must start reporting to the Parliament annually on performance and activities. This development is likely to bring to light important information and insights for the Latvian prosecution on how to manage and allocate resources most effectively. The law does not strictly determine the content of the Report to be submitted to Parliament, but during the interviews, the Latvian Prosecution Office has explained that it shall include statistics on number and types of cases; caseload; aggregated data on individual performance of prosecutors; resource data (ratios between resources employed and results achieved); training activities and attendance records; the total crime indicators in the country, statistical indicators and analysis of the work performed by prosecutors in various areas. The reporting obligation, nonetheless, could benefit from legislating the minimum amount of quality and performance assessment indicators that the Report shall include.

In addition, and in a more disaggregated manner, indicators of structural units of the Prosecution Office are compiled in dynamic reports, which allow to determine and analyse the efficiency of prosecutors’ activity. Such an assessment is performed within the framework of the assessment of the prosecutors’ individual performance, as well as in accordance with the Prosecutor General’s Order No. 47 On the comparative table of the work results of the structural units of the district level prosecution offices approved on 9th of November 2018. To ensure the assessment of work results of structural units of the District Prosecution Office according to the average workload and performance criteria of Prosecutors, the Prosecutor General ordered the production of a report, which would be assessed in accordance with criteria set in the Annex 3 of the Order, to be carried out monthly. A comparative table of work results of structural units of the District Prosecution Office is then produced. All data and reporting is introduced in the Information System of the Prosecution Office (ProIS). ProIS allows for the collection of a large amount of data about ongoing prosecutions, as has been observed by the OECD directly, disaggregated into different sections including by topic, criminal code article number, date and time, prosecutor and office, among other criteria. ProIS also allows to observe data on the activities of a specific prosecutor. From this exercise, an excel table and a graph are generated which enable a visual representation of workload and efficiency of each prosecutor office, and enable better allocation of resources by the Prosecutor General’s Office. As highlighted at the outset, it is not only important to gather information, but also to establish assessment indicators. In Box 4.5, a summary of how such data is assessed from the perspective of performance is provided.

The Parliament and the Prosecutor's Office have identified effective and high-quality prosecution in combating financial and economic crimes as a policy priority area. In order to deepen the evaluation and assess progress in this regard, Latvia could strongly gain from leveraging the amounts of data it collects in order to feed into criminal reform design and goal achievement. This may require the collection of more data, including qualitative information on criminal cases, as well as analysis of the backlog of pending cases, the full duration of criminal cases, and the situation with regard to the respect of human right, could be productive areas of expansion of the data collection exercise. The State Audit Office of Latvia had requested, for instance, information on existing backlogs of cases, which the office of the Prosecutor General allegedly could not share as it was not aggregated, it was only available from each prosecutor individually. In addition, the Office of Prosecutor General considered it necessary to state that it did not find such aggregation of information necessary, as it would require significant resources of the Prosecutor’s Office while not providing a useful return. Despite this conception, and as stems from the above analysis, the collection and analysis of aggregated national data on criminal statistics could prove useful to enable the design of policies that better allocate existing resources. The Prosecution Office could consider that, given the significant investment that it has already entailed to collect individual data and develop the system ProIS, going one step further could become stepping stones to achieve its strategic objectives.

In addition, the current obligation to Report to Parliament could be made more effective by clarifying its scope and meaning, as already noted in Chapter 2. As the reporting requirement only requires submission by the Prosecutor General of a report to the Parliament on performance of the office during the preceding year and the priorities for the next year, no clear scope is determined for the statistics to be submitted, but also on quality and performance indicators to be assessed as part of the Report. Quality indicators could include, as examples,4 the following:

  • backlogs

  • productivity of judges and court staff

  • satisfaction of court staff

  • satisfaction of users (regarding the services delivered by the courts)

  • costs of the judicial procedures for defendants and victims

  • number of appeals

  • appeal ratio

  • clearance rate

  • disposition time

  • reduction of crime.

In addition, such reporting could serve as a strategic tool to drive performance and as an accountability instrument. At the moment, it emerged during stakeholder interviews and through the annotation to the draft law by the Prosecutor General’s Office that reporting is interpreted largely as a provision of information rather than a matter of accountability: “In order to achieve greater involvement and understanding of the legislator and the public, it would be necessary to deliver that report to a higher level, thus signalling at the same time that one should recognise the work of the Prosecutor’s Office as nationally significant (Prosecutor General's Office, n.d.[7]).” If this interpretation is not upgraded to a more ambitious one, the reporting may not necessarily represent an improvement from the pre-existing practice to organise annual meeting of chief prosecutors, where the results of the previous year were announced.5 The State Audit Office in 2019, when analysing such results, drew the attention of the Cabinet of Ministers to the fact that most of the informative reports prepared by the ministries on the problems of the enforcement of the Criminal Procedure Law did not provide an in-depth analysis of statistical data and the general situation. It pointed to the fact that reports focused on quantitative indicators characterising the crime situation in the country and statistics on prosecutorial work, while missing qualitative analysis of the performance and results achieved by the Prosecutor’s Office. These could include, for example, the impact of the activities implemented by the Prosecutor’s Office on reduction in crime rates, and the prosecution’s contribution and plans to improve efficiency and quality of pre-trial investigations, quality of state prosecutions in court, and other relevant areas of activity in the field of criminal justice.

Making the most of the data collected by all institutions involved in criminal policy making would be useful to design and implement evidence-based policies in the area of reforming criminal justice and help the creation of optimised strategic plans. Strong data protection regulations within the European Union may however sometimes difficult this exercise (Open Society Institute Sofia, 2008[8]). In the following Box 4.6, the practices in OECD benchmarked countries are analysed to serve as inspiration on further avenues to collect and use statistical data on the criminal justice system that could be useful to the Latvian PGO.

Standardisation refers to the uniformisation of criteria and response to be applied when a particular offense arrives in the prosecution service. This method is used in order to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the prosecution of cases, reducing timelines for each case and enabling simplification of procedures. It is often coupled with a deviation of the simplest processes towards out-of-court mechanisms or fully standardised decision-making guidelines. In aiming towards excellence in the prosecution, procedures should be simplified where possible. This practice is not only necessarily applicable to simple cases, but can also prove useful for the prosecution of increasingly complex cases, as it can provide a stable interpretation of the criminal code that is beneficial for coherence and predictability of the system; and it can also make the co-operation between prosecutors and investigators easier. In Latvia, where reaching a common understanding of the standard required for the burden of proof for each crime among prosecutors and investigators has proven to be an issue in the interviews conducted, harmonisation of the evidence threshold to be reached in relation to each crime could be a very positive practice. It emerged throughout the interviews that inter-institutional co-operation between the prosecution and the investigator bodies has begun in this regard through a working group that will draft common guidelines related to collection of evidence, which is highly positive. Inviting representatives of the judiciary and courts to this working group may also prove positive in order to ensure that a truly common and useful understanding is reached that will enable the most efficient prosecution of crimes.

At present, prosecutors in Latvia distinguish between “clear cases”, on which some prosecutors specialise and are standardised and where the prosecution uses the “penal orders” to fine offenders, from “dark cases”. Dark cases are characterised by having no or little information about the perpetrator, thus they remain unidentified. They may remain suspended for long periods or indefinitely, since Latvian prosecutors wouldn’t be able to waive the prosecution due to the application of the legality principle. Clear cases, while benefitting from more guidance on how to proceed, often are composed of petty and simple crimes, on which prosecutors find they spend a large amount of time that is not contributing to a lower criminality overall. Throughout the interviews, prosecutors expressed their desire to find efficient solutions to both the indefinite nature of dark cases, and the repetitive one of a majority of clear cases. Standardisation and harmonisation guidelines could also help clarify the relationship between prosecutors and investigators.

Latvia may benefit in this regard from the efforts undertaken in some benchmarked countries to address very similar challenges. In France, the pressing concern for efficiency and effectiveness has led to the practice of standardisation by means of the “directives permanentes” which standardise the response to certain mass offences. This system allows police officers to issue the paperwork and send case files directly to the prosecutor’s delegate. The Netherlands started implementing significant reforms to this end by the mid-1980s, outlined in Box 4.7.

In Italy, prioritisation is not allowed, but over time, all major Italian Prosecution Offices have created special “offices for the definition of simple affairs” or “filter offices” for an “automated” disposal of crimes deemed simple or less serious in order to encourage immediate or quick ending of the proceedings. These filter offices are mainly composed of administrative and police staff who implement simplified procedures and predetermined, standardised investigative protocols with no evaluation by a magistrate (Blengino, 2020[9]).

As has been outlined throughout this report, the consideration must be made when analysing performance of the prosecution system that the prosecution does not occur in isolation. On the contrary, the effectiveness of the prosecution depends on a significant deal on its broader criminal justice context, including the respective performance and co-operation with the court system, the ministry of justice, and other actors including criminal investigators (as has been much analysed throughout this report, due to their direct impact on prosecutions), the penitentiary system and criminal legal counsels, among others.

In Latvia, the courts may have partial responsibility for the lengthy substantiation of criminal proceedings. It has emerged throughout the interviews carried out by the OECD that trials are often not conducted in a consecutive row of days, and so the hearing flows are interrupted and can last for months, with the added difficulty that while resuming the trial, a refreshment is needed of what happened in the preceding sessions. It emerged through the fact-finding interviews that this entails, on occasion, unreasonable prolongation of trials. Indeed, according to the joint summary of the European Commission and the Europe Committee of Experts on the Evaluation of Anti-Money Laundering Measures and the Financing of Terrorism on the average duration of criminal cases involving money laundering in the courts of the first instance in 2014-2017, Latvia has the second-longest average duration of such trials among the European Union member States and Latvia lags behind other countries in this respect. The average length of those proceedings was approximately 800 days in Latvia in 2017. According to the communication of the European Commission, EU Member States face difficulties when such proceedings take an average of about two years. Regular cases have also been identified to take very long to process by the State Audit Office, despite CEPEJ reports showing Latvia to be below the European disposition time for criminal cases (118 days, in comparison to the 144 average days in the Council of Europe countries) (CEPEJ, 2020[10]). It appears that a reason for this could be that the courts are often deferential to defendants’ legal counsels in such a way that the hearing for a certain date and time is set on the court's docket only when the defendant’s council availability allows it. In respect to the delays it causes, this circumstance might require an amendment of the criminal procedural law to empower the court to set dates as it wishes, after having heard the preferred dates of the defence.

The influence of actors outside the prosecution system on their performance calls for a holistic approach that involves the key stakeholders of the criminal justice system in Latvia. This may include the mainstreaming of a broad criminal justice strategy and objectives across different institutions of the judiciary, and significant co-operation and integration among such actors. The preparation of joint training sessions between judges, prosecutors and investigators and the development of standardised procedures, as highlighted in other sections of this report, could be measures helpful to increase co-ordination between the most relevant institutions and improve performance of the system overall.

Overall, in order to introduce more effective strategic management strategies, the PGO could leverage its existing strategic plan as a guide but introduce a strong focus on increasing efficiency of work processes and procedures. It is recommended that the PGO analyse its organisational structures and work processes for criminal procedures to detect potential causes for delays and lack of prosecution of relevant cases that are investigated for long periods, and stimulate the introduction of measures for improving the speed and amount of prosecutions, especially standardisation, specialisation (analysed in Chapter 5) and prioritisation (analysed in Chapter 3), along with more vigorous use of alternative ways of ending investigations, as permitted by legislation, and investment in sound diversionary measures (also analysed in Chapter 3). Additional consideration should be given in the domains of accessibility and public trust.


[3] Albers, P. (2016), New quality standards for the public prosecutors: is there a need for a framework for prosecution excellence?.

[9] Blengino, C. (2020), “New Public Management, Citizens’ Fears and Calls for Justice. The Prosecutor’s New Role in Italy”, in Colvin, Victoria and Stenning, Philip, eds.: The Evolving Role of Public Prosecutor. Challenges and Innovations..

[4] CCPE (2020), “CCPE country profile Finland”, https://www.coe.int/en/web/ccpe/country-profiles/finland.

[6] CCPE (2012), “Questionnaire with a view of the preparation of Opinion No. 7 on the management of the means of the prosecution services - Replies from Denmark”, https://rm.coe.int/consultative-council-of-european-prosecutors-ccpe-questionnaire-with-a/168071c89e.

[10] CEPEJ (2020), “2020 Report of the Council of Europe European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), data of 2018.”.

[5] Council of Europe Committee on Counter-Terrorism (2018), “Portugal Profile on Counterterrorism capacity”, https://rm.coe.int/profile-2018-portugal/1680981495.

[2] DPKO & OHCHR (2011), “United Nations Rule of Law Indicators – Implementation Guide and Project Tools”, https://www.un.org/ruleoflaw/blog/document/united-nations-rule-of-law-indicators-implementation-guide-and-project-tools/.

[1] Ivan-Cucu, V. (2015), Evaluating prosecutors’ performance: celebrating success and censuring failure, https://www.iap-association.org/getattachment/Conferences/Annual-Conferences/Annual-Conference-2014/Tuesday-25-November-2015/Virgil.pdf.aspx.

[8] Open Society Institute Sofia (2008), Promoting Prosecutorial Accountability, Independence and Effectiveness. Comparative Research., https://www.justiceinitiative.org/uploads/f3b388fc-c2cc-401a-98e5-9423ccee0e0d/promoting_20090217.pdf.

[7] Prosecutor General’s Office (n.d.), Annotation of the draft law “Amendments to the Law on the Prosecutor’s Office”, http://titania.saeima.lv/LIVS13/saeimalivs13.nsf/0/01AD7B6DB91FDA0CC22584D4004C80E8? OpenDocument#B.


← 1. The strategic management of prosecutorial services was the main theme of the 17th European Regional Conference 2019 of the International Association of Prosecutors held in Oporto, Portugal, on 16-17 May 2019.

← 2. The ratio of the number of resolved cases over the number of incoming cases.

← 3. Accessible at www.courtexcellence.com/.

← 4. Some of these examples are based on the ones used by the Commission on the Efficiency of Justice of the Council of Europe.

← 5. The Prosecutor’s Office’s annual reports are public and available on the website www.prokuratura.gov.lv/lv.

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