Fair Trials calls for states to reverse global trend of overcriminalisation

Article by Fair Trials
  • Expansion of criminal legal powers poses a grave threat to justice, fairness and equality across the globe
  • This trend has been highlighted by the leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v Wade, which would permit the criminalisation of personal behaviour on a mass scale
  • New Fair Trials’ global strategy recognises that protection of the trial process itself is only the first step in reining in excessive state power

From the excessive policing of Covid-19 lockdowns to the prospect that the US will permit criminalisation on a mass scale, many states are using criminal powers to deal with social and healthcare issues that could be better addressed in other ways, warns Fair Trials. In a new strategy, global criminal watchdog Fair Trials has highlighted that this increase to the scope, breadth, and intrusiveness of criminal legal processes poses a grave threat to justice, fairness and equality across the globe.

The international organization, which is dedicated to exposing, challenging, and remedying systemic injustice, is calling for states around the world to reverse the trend towards  criminalising behaviour that would be better addressed through investment in poverty alleviation, education, housing, healthcare and support for people with mental health or neurodivergent conditions.

Global CEO Norman L. Reimer, said:

“While protection of the right to a fair trial is essential to prevent injustice, our work increasingly recognizes that governments are routinely over-policing, over-prosecuting, and over-punishing. And they are doing so in ways that systematically discriminate against marginalised communities, including racial and ethnic minorities.

“Criminal justice reform requires that we tackle inequities at every phase of the process, including overly intrusive policing practices that target minorities and the poor through the abuse of surveillance technologies and artificial intelligence, and the use of expedited procedures that systematically coerce waivers of basic rights.

“Given the abject failure over decades to remedy fundamental societal inequity, it is simply no longer acceptable to employ the hammer of criminal prosecution in the misguided belief that if governments just focus on policing, prosecuting, and punishing, the criminal law will one day deliver the answer to fundamental social problems that we know are more effectively and justly addressed through improved access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.”

Fair Trials’ revitalized strategic approach is embodied in a newly-articulated vision and mission that urge utmost restraint in how and when the criminal process is applied and in a set of core principles that define the values, processes, and scope that are essential to bring fundamental justice to criminal justice systems.

Fair Trials will campaign to promote procedural fairness and transparency, oppose overcriminalization and overincarceration, identify and eliminate systemic racism, bias and other disparate treatment, and oppose government overreach through the misuse of police power.

Norman Reimer added: “No doubt the challenges are enormous. But working with partners who share a common vision for fairness and justice and informed by people with lived experience, the opportunities to promote reform are limitless. We must never forget that a criminal justice system is a window into the soul of society.

The full text of Fair Trials’ vision, mission, principles, and advocacy areas is available here.