Strasbourg, 15 March 2013







adopted by the Working Group on the quality of justice (CEPEJ-GT-QUAL)

Document prepared by the Secretariat

A.            INTRODUCTION

The Working Group on the quality of justice (CEPEJ-GT-QUAL) of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) decided at its 12th meeting (Strasbourg, 18-19 October 2012) to prepare to the attention of the members of the CEPEJ Network of Pilot Courts, and possibly of other sources of information, a questionnaire pertaining to the various aspects of the organisation and accessibility of court premises.

The purpose of the questionnaire is to collect information on the approaches used and solutions developed by the courts in their daily practice in order to facilitate for court users access to their services and improve the quality of the public service of justice. It takes into account the issues highlighted during the discussion on the possibility of establishing guidelines on the organisation and accessibility of court premises held during the 7th plenary meeting of the Network of Pilot Courts (Gozo, Malta, 27 September 2012).

The information thus collected will serve as a basis for the work on the future CEPEJ guidelines on the organisation and accessibility of court premises.


I.              Regulatory framework

1.            Are there formal requirements or guidelines for the setup of public buildings and premises in your country? Where are these requirements or guidelines contained?

2.            Are there specific requirements or guidelines for court buildings?

3.            If possible, please attach an example (or a brief summary) of such regulations to your reply (in English or French).

II.            Reception and information facilities

4.            Is there a single reception desk for all public arriving at the court (i.e. individuals wishing to obtain information, those summoned to a hearing or to another formal occasion, those who wish to collect or deposit documents etc.) where they can receive directions?

5.            Is the reception staff easily identifiable (for example, by the uniform they wear or by a name tag/badge clearly indicating their function)?

6.            If there is no such reception desk, how can visitors find out where to go and whom to contact with their enquiry?

7.            Is there a visitor’s guide (printed, available on the website etc.)? How can it be consulted?

8.            Is there dedicated personnel tasked with answering enquiries and providing information (including by telephone or via internet / e-mail)? Do these personnel receive special training?

9.            Do you organise Doors Open Days or other events aimed at promoting the public awareness of your court and its services? If yes, how frequently?

III.           Moving around the premises

10.          How is the court building marked as such on the outside?

11.          Is it located nearby public transport routes? Are there public parking facilities nearby?

12.          In the entrance hall / reception area, is there an electronic/TV screen or another display indicating the main events and hearings scheduled for the day as well as their location (floor, room number, sector of the building etc.)?

13.          Once the court user knows which room to look for, how can he/she find this room?

14.          Is there a special entrance / specific track inside the building foreseen for the accused persons in criminal proceedings?

IV.           Organisation of the waiting time for users

15.          How and when are parties in a case summoned to attend the hearing (e.g. by a letter requiring them to appear at a certain time or at the beginning of a certain day or of a certain half-day? Or by a letter indicating a specific day followed by an SMS one hour before the hearing time etc.)

16.          Are there dedicated waiting areas for the public (e.g. those waiting for their hearing to start, or witnesses waiting to be summoned etc.)? Do these areas have sufficient capacity?

17.          Are there facilities for users with special needs (e.g. a play / nursing area for young children)?

18.          Are the following facilities available to visitors? If yes, is their capacity sufficient?

a.             catering facilities,

b.             drinking water fountains,

c.             smoking areas,

d.             bathrooms.

19.          Are there specific arrangements for waiting in separate rooms for:

a.            victims,

b.             witnesses,

c.             children,

d.             parties to a divorce case who feel uncomfortable waiting together,

e.             other categories.

V.            Organisation of the premises facilitating the work of the professionals of justice

20.           Are zones for receiving the public (waiting areas, hearing rooms etc.) separated from the working zones of judges / prosecutors and court clerks?

21.          Are there specific facilities for consultations between lawyers and their clients in private?

22.          Are there dedicated parts of court premises with restricted access (i.e. reserved for those participating in a hearing) for holding in camera hearings in specific categories of cases?

23.          If yes, for what kinds of cases are these premises used? (E.g. cases involving minors, family law cases, criminal cases where a special protection of the victim is required etc.)

24.          If there are no such premises, how is restricted access to such hearings ensured?

VI.           Security and separation of zones for the public and judges / court staff

25.          What measures are taken to protect the physical security of judicial staff and the public at the entrance of the premises? (E.g. security checks at the entrance, security officers on guard, including carrying firearms etc.)

26.          What measures are taken to protect the physical security of judicial staff and the public in the court rooms?

27.          In the court room, how is the area for the accused organised? What measures are taken, if any, in order to prevent them from escaping? To ensure their own security?  

VII.         Facilities for disabled visitors

28.          According to the regulations in force, are court buildings required to have special facilities for disabled visitors?

29.          Are there specific measures for ensuring access of the disabled linked with judicial proceedings as such (i.e. in addition to, or different from, the general measures for access of the disabled to public premises)? If yes, what kinds of impairments are covered by these measures (e.g. reduced mobility / wheelchair users, blind / visually impaired, deaf / hearing impaired etc.)?

VIII.        Information and communication technologies

30.          Does your court have its own website?

31.          Is it mandatory for a court to have and maintain one?

32.          If yes, what kind of information must such website contain?

33.          How can court users obtain information on the progress of their case? Is it possible to do so via internet (e.g. by consulting a database using a special access code)?

34.          Is it possible to submit documents electronically? If yes, what kinds of documents? What categories of users can do so (lawyers, parties in a case directly etc.)?

35.          Is video-conferencing / hearing by videolink possible? If yes, in which cases or circumstances?

36.          Can visitors and the press follow hearings open to public outside the court room, e.g. on a screen (when the capacity of the room is not sufficient for all those interested)?

37.          Can judges / prosecutors access their (electronic) files from other parts of the court premises than their own office?

38.          Are there electronic terminals where the users can:

a.     obtain information?

b.    pay fines?

c.     perform other actions?

39.          Are there WI-FI connections accessible to:

a.     lawyers?

b.    the public?

IX.            Relations with the media

40.          Are there specific rooms for media professionals?

41.          Do media professionals have access to privileged information (such as judgements etc.) which is not accessible to the public?

X.            Conception or refurbishment of court premises

42.          In case your court building was recently constructed or refurbished, have you as judges / prosecutors been able to meet architects responsible for building / refurbishing it so that they take your views and needs into account?

XI.           Key areas and priorities

43.          Please list up to 5 areas or specific aspects (from among those indicated above) of the organisation and accessibility of court premises that you believe should always be dealt with as a matter of priority (e.g. if the funding available does not allow to fulfil all aspects).

44.          Are there other aspects that are not covered by this questionnaire but that you consider important? If yes, please list these aspects and provide details.