France: Procedural Rights Observed by the Camera

Audiovisual recording of interrogations in the EU

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The earliest stages of criminal procedure frequently determine the overall fairness of the proceedings. Key evidence is often obtained during pre-trial interrogations by the police, prosecutors or investigative judges. Yet this is also a moment when the suspect, in particular vulnerable persons and minors, can be exposed to undue compulsion, coercion, mistreatment and even torture, due to the desire by law enforcement to secure a confession.

Given that interrogations take place behind closed doors, there are enormous challenges in determining what happened during an interrogation, when compliance with procedural rules or other human rights during interrogations is questioned. Even with a lawyer present (which is far from being universally the case), disputes about what occurred may result in conflicting versions of events, with no objective record. This may result in delayed trials or prosecutions, unfair convictions and serious human rights abuses remaining unexposed. Is audiovisual recording an effective way of overcoming this problem?

In this report, after a brief introduction to the project and French criminal justice system (Part 1), we set out the legal framework on audiovisual recording in France (Part 2), before analysing the limited available statistical data (Part 3). We then analyse the information drawn from the interviews with stakeholders regarding the practice (Part 4) before outlining some recommendations in conclusion (Part 5).

This report was produced as part of the ProCam project, co-funded by the European Union’s Justice Programme.

Download the report here.