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France’s reform plans fail to address fundamental issues in criminal legal system

Article by Fair Trials

Fair Trials has submitted a written contribution to the French government regarding the reform of its criminal legal system. France’s ongoing reform project aims to instil ‘confidence in the judicial institution.’ However, the current proposals overlook serious issues which continue to perpetuate inequality in the criminal legal system, threaten human rights and undermine public confidence.

There is a growing use of accelerated procedures with the aim of ‘simplifying the criminal procedure’. These mechanisms – such as fast track proceedings and trial waiver systems – undermine any attempt to rebuild confidence in the judiciary by giving increasing power to prosecutors to act as judge. France also fails to respect basic procedural safeguards including the right to access a lawyer, jeopardising the right to a fair trial.

France’s expansion of the use of the electronic bracelet has failed to address severe prison overcrowding, which has led to inhumane and degrading prison conditions. The electronic bracelet has become an alternative to release, instead of an alternative to pre-trial detention. France must act on the source of the problem, not on the symptoms. This must include finding solutions that will drastically reduce the use of pre-trial detention.

The reform project is meant to be about restoring confidence in the judicial system. It is astonishing that the demands of civil society, especially of racialised groups, are not mentioned anywhere. If genuine reform is to be achieved, the French government must acknowledge unequivocally that one of the main problems facing the French legal system is institutional racism and must commit to putting an end to it.

Read our submission of recommendations here.

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