Defending theHuman Rightto a Fair Trial
Fair Trials launches new report on trial waiver systems
Why did Flavia plead guilty to a crime she wasn't guilty of?
A visual breakdown of plea bargaining
What is the Problem?
The trial is the archetype of criminal justice: just think of the dominance of court-room drama in film, TV and literature. But, in reality, the trial is starting to disappear. People are increasingly being incentivised to simply plead guilty and to waive their right to a trial.
The use of trial waiver systems like plea bargaining, abbreviated trials and cooperating witness procedures have increased about 300% since 1990. It’s also happening in more places than ever before. Of the 90 countries studied by Fair Trials and Freshfields, 66 now have these kinds of formal “trial waiver” systems in place. In 1990, the number was just 19.
We are not opposed to this in principle but these out-of-court mechanisms can impact fair trial rights and the criminal justice system more widely in serious ways, including:
What do we want?
Fair Trials recognises the benefits of trial waiver systems. However, we also recognise that, if they aren’t accompanied by safeguards, they can cause major problems to justice and the rule of law. We believe that trial waiver systems should be rooted in a rights-based approach. This can include:
What are we doing?
We have coordinated research across 90 countries leading to the publication of our report, The Disappearing Trial: Towards a rights-based approach to trial waiver systems. This report (published on 27th April) presents the results of that research, analysing the drivers of this phenomenon, assessing the legal and human rights implications and providing recommendations for the development of a rights-based approach to trial waiver systems. This is just a starting point, and we are working to:
A summary of the report is available here.
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Fair Trials Europe is a registered public foundation in Belgium (No. 552688677).
Fair Trials Europe was founded by Fair Trials International
(a registered charity with limited liability in England and Wales, Nos 1134586 and 7135273),
together they form Fair Trials.