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NEWS

Short Update: Magistrates across Belgium reject post-COVID remote justice reform measures

FT Admin - June 17, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Remote Justice

Belgian magistrates have rejected a ‘catch-all’ law reform bill (in French) proposing an expansion of videoconferencing and dealing with procedures in writing, rather than orally in person. 

The bill authorises judges to “choose” whether to use videoconferencing, without the consent of the accused or their lawyer. For the magistrates, this is a fake choice. It will suffice for the executive to affirm that the transfer of detainees is too expensive, or that it is too dangerous, for the judges to be faced with a fait accompli: lack of detainees present at the hearing , they will have no other option than to "choose" the videoconference.

Magistrates have stressed the defendant’s right to appear before a judge, and have said that video-links “can never adequately replace the accused’s personal appearance”, and that they are “incompatible with the victims’ need to be heard”. Magistrates have also questioned how defendants can have confidential communication with their lawyers, with the reform measures lacking in such detail. 

Magistrates have also condemned the proposal to administer legal procedures in writing, citing issues with litigants in person and the fact that justice is best administered between parties who are in person, which allows for a better understanding of the decision.  

We publish information as it is reported to us. If you would like to make us aware of an inaccuracy or send us more information please email us at [email protected] .

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

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