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NEWS

Short Update: French decree establishes extensive use of videolinks and other measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

FairTrialsAdmin - April 8, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Remote Justice, Access to a lawyer

The Act of 23 March 2020 instituting a state of public health emergency in France for two months empowered the French Government (Article 11) to take by decree, within three months, any measure to deal with the economic, financial and social consequences of the spread of the epidemic.

As a corollary to this act, a decree (“ordonnance 2020-303”) was adopted on 25 March 2020. It will remain applicable until one month after the end of the state of public health emergency, i.e., as it stands, until 24 June 2020. 

The decree allows for the use of videolinks before all criminal courts without the need to obtain the agreement of the parties. An exception remains for the most serious crimes (tried before the cour d’assises). The article even allows recourse to any other means of electronic or telephone communication in the event of technical or material impossibility to use videoconferencing  on condition that the confidentiality of the exchanges is preserved and that the identity of the persons is verified, and that the rights of defence are respected. 

Regarding the public access to the courtroom, the decree provides that hearings may not be conducted in open court if the president of the court requests so (this applies to the criminal court and to the cour d’assises). The hearing will then be held either before a limited audience or via video, if the conditions necessary to protect the health of the public cannot be guaranteed. Journalists may be authorized by the president to attend the hearing. 

Concerning pre-trial detention, the decree establishes in article 13 that the lawyer’s assistance and interview with the suspect may be carried out by any electronic or telephone means of communication that guarantees the confidentiality of the exchanges. 


Read the decree here (in French)

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