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Is the ruling of the criminal court concerning civil-party proceedings revocable?

Very often the criminal court is called upon to judge on objections relating to the lodgment of a civil-party complaint in the criminal trial before it. Examining each case’s circumstances, the court will decide either to dismiss or to accept the civil-party application. The question that arises, however, is whether it is possible for the criminal court to revoke this ruling in a later point in time and thus, allow for example the return of the expelled civil-party to the ongoing criminal trial. An essential prerequisite in order to answer this question is the examination of the nature of the decision concerning civil party proceedings.

Undoubtedly, the court’s ruling dealing with civil-party proceedings does not coincide with the final decision on the confirmation of charges. On the contrary, the ruling relating to civil-party proceedings seems to constitute a preliminary decision pursuant to article 548 of the Greek Code of Criminal Procedure. However, article 548 does not provide with an exact definition of the term “preliminary decisions”. Rather, it states that preliminary decisions are executed immediately and can be revoked.

The jurisprudence on this issue is enlightening, since it has formed a definition of the term “preliminary decisions”, according to which preliminary decisions are “those that do not rule conclusively on the confirmation of charges, but merely prepare the final judgment”. Consequently, at first glance, the ruling concerning civil-party proceedings seems to be revocable like any other preliminary decision.

Nevertheless, the ability of the criminal court to revoke every preliminary decision without any exception was a concern in a theoretical and practical level. As a result, a new opinion prevailed gradually: not every preliminary decision is revocable, but only those which do not solve conclusively a matter arising in connection with the charges. This is the reason why both the legal theory and the jurisprudence in Greece began to distinguish between “genuine preliminary” decisions on the one hand and on the other “non-genuine preliminary” or “interlocutory” decisions, with the latter being irrevocable due to their importance, since they may not rule on the confirmation of charges, but they do solve conclusively an issue that has arisen. The decision on applications for an adjournment of the trial serves as an example of the so-called genuine preliminary decisions, while the ruling concerning civil-party proceedings can be considered an interlocutory decision.

Based on the aforementioned distinction between genuine preliminary and interlocutory decisions, some of the most recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Greece conclude that the rulings concerning civil-party proceedings are not revocable. This conclusion is a step to the right direction given the ruling’s nature. Such a ruling is qualitatively different from a decision on the applications for an adjournment of the trial, since it deals with an issue of utmost importance not only for the person that lodges a civil-party complaint but also for the defendant and the progress of the trial.