Trial Waiver Systems in Europe: Punishment without a trial


Trials are key to ensuring that a criminal conviction is fair. In reality, many people in Europe are being convicted of crimes without a trial taking place. When States have too many cases to deal with, often as a result of the ever-increasing reach of criminal law, they resort to trial waiver systems to process cases quickly, regardless of whether people are innocent or guilty.

Trial waiver systems encourage people to give up their right to a full trial in exchange for a concession from the State. This practice has detrimental effects on the people involved. Innocent people can be coerced into thinking that pleading guilty is their only option, or they may fear the consequences or costs of a full trial. There is also evidence that people who are vulnerable, people who are on low incomes, and migrants are disproportionately affected by waiving their right to a trial, reinforcing existing social inequalities in our justice systems.

Strong guarantees must be put in place to protect people and their fundamental rights, as well as the rule of law, by ensuring that authorities are subject to oversight. The Trial Waiver Systems in Europe (TWSE) project examined the impact of trial waiver systems in Europe on the right to a fair trial. It brought together partners in Albania (Respublica), Cyprus (KISA), Hungary (Hungarian Helsinki Committee), Italy (Antigone) and Slovenia (Mirovni Institute) and was led by Fair Trials. During this online event, we discuss the project’s findings and recommendations.

1. Panel Discussion and Q&A – Contextual overview, regional standards and systemic risks associated with trial waiver systems
Moderated by Emmanuelle Debouverie, Senior Legal and Policy Officer at Fair Trials

-Jacqueline Hodgson, Professor of Law, Warwick Law School (UK)
-Rebecca Helm, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Exeter (UK)
-Alejandro Gamez Selma, Criminal Defence Lawyer (Spain) and LEAP member

2.Presentation of project findings

-Nathalie Vandevelde, Assistant Legal and Policy Officer, Fair Trials
-Nóra Novoszádek, Senior Legal Officer, Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Hungary)
-Dorian Matija, Executive Director of Res Publica (Albania)
-Federica Brioschi, Researcher, Antigone (Italy)
-Nicoletta Charalambidou, Advocate and KISA member (Cyprus)
-Katarina Vučko, Mirovni Institute (Slovenia)

Skip to toolbar