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NEWS

Fair Trials launches new report on trial waiver systems

editor - April 24, 2017

Fair Trials is launching a new report on Thursday, 27th April 2017, on the use of trial waiver systems globally. The report was conducted in cooperation with law firm and pro bono partner Freshfields, and gathers information on the existence and operation of trial waiver systems in over 90 jurisdictions across the  world. The aim of the research is to better understand the scope of the practice and the potential implications it has on human rights and the rule of law.
The study kicked-off in July 2015, when we launched a survey to lawyers across the globe to collect detailed information on the law and practice of trial waiver systems in their respective jurisdictions. Through our questionnaires, we were able to reach local lawyers in over 100 countries with responses received from 90 jurisdictions spanning six continents.
In this report, a trial waiver system  is identified as “a process not prohibited by law under which criminal defendants agree to accept guilt and/or cooperate with the investigative authority in exchange for soCapture-pleame benefit from the state, most commonly in the form of reduced charges and/or lower sentences.” These can include “plea bargaining,” “guilty pleas,” “summary procedures” and “abbreviated trials” among others.
Our report examines the vast increase in the application of trial waiver systems which has rocketed up to 300% since 1990. In some countries, this has become the most common way to settle a criminal proceeding; in the US for example, 97% of the convictions are resolved through guilty pleas.
Trial waiver systems can help to tackle impunity and to reduce long case processing times, public spending and related over-reliance on pre-trial detention. But at the same time, they take away the full guarantees offered in trials and challenge the rights protected in the laws. Domestic and international normative frameworks to regulate these practices have failed to keep up with the growth in use of trial waivers, with surprisingly little guidance, transparency or jurisprudence, which can result in reduced public faith in the system and undermine anti-impunity and anti-corruption efforts.
Furthermore, trial waiver systems can lead to miscarriages of justice when they are not accompanied by sufficient procedural safeguards. Lack of oversight of police and prosecutorial conduct can result in innocent people pleading guilty in the hope of being exonerated.
This report is the first step in our new campaign exposing the shortcomings of trial waiver systems and calling for the adoption of a human rights approach in their application. Stay tuned!

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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If you are a journalist interested in this story, please call the media team on +44 (0) 7749 785 932 or email [email protected]irtrials.net

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