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Ref. DC xx(2018)

Efficiency and quality of justice: Council of Europe publishes its 2018 report

Paris, 04.10.2018 – The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) of the Council of Europe sets out the main trends observed in this field in 45 European countries (*) today in a report and a publicly accessible interactive database.

The trends identified by this 7th evaluation report since the CEPEJ was set up in 2002 include:

- in the sphere of judicial system budgets:

·         a slight overall increase: European States spend an average of €64 per inhabitant per annum on their judicial system, with particularly sizeable budgets in Luxembourg and Norway; each country’s investment in its justice system has to be assessed in proportion to its level of wealth;

·         States having had to cut budgets because of the economic and financial crisis from 2008 are gradually moving back towards pre-crisis levels;

·         the budget of courts accounts for the largest share of the budget allocated to the judicial system (66% on average); remuneration of staff is the most substantial item, especially in States which only have professional judges;

·         in east European countries, more of the judicial budget is allocated to the public prosecution services (around 30%) whereas northern European countries tend to invest more in legal aid (more than 30% of the judicial system budget);

·         higher contributions by users to the financing of the judicial system, via taxes and court fees: only France, Luxembourg and Spain provide for access to courts without fees;

·         revenue generated in this way can cover over 40% of the court budget (Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Turkey, Ukraine); in some countries, revenues from registers cover much of court operating costs and in the case of Austria exceed the operating costs of the entire judicial system;

·         a tendency to outsource certain services, in order to optimise budget resources and provide a higher level of specialisation and expertise;

·         the introduction in all countries of legal aid systems in criminal and other cases, frequently going beyond merely providing a lawyer free of charge and including areas such as mediation or enforcement of judicial decisions;

- in the sphere of judges and prosecutors:

·         the development of further training and a move towards making it compulsory for accessing specialised posts or functions;

·         the importance attached to the experience of candidates in the selection process for judges’ posts;

·         stability in the number of professional judges; there is a growing professionalisation of judges, as fewer States use non-professional judges;

·         Europe is split as to the use of juries, which exist in just under half of the Council of Europe’s member States;

·         Gauged on the basis of a number of indicators (staffing level, number of cases, roles, alternative procedures), the busiest prosecution services are in France, Austria and Italy;

·         increasingly similar salary levels of judges and prosecutors;

·         an increase in the number of lawyers, triggered by the development of the rule of law in central and eastern Europe and legal aid;

- in the sphere of parity within the judicial system:

·         feminisation in the ranks of judges and prosecutors is a continuing trend but the "glass ceiling" is still a reality when it comes to functions of responsibility;

·         there are few specific measures for promoting parity (only Germany appears to have developed a global policy in favour of parity, for the recruitment of judges and lawyers, notaries and enforcement agents);

·         while the proportion of women is increasing among judges and prosecutors, professions such as lawyers, notaries and enforcement agents are predominantly male;

- in the sphere of the organisation of courts:

·         they are becoming fewer in number, larger in size and more specialised;

·         reforms of the judicial map are under way in three-quarters of the countries surveyed, accompanied by new alternative methods for settling disputes;

·         the grouping together of courts goes hand in hand with the developing use of internet-based information and communication methods;

·         court users are better informed thanks to the information technologies but it is human contact that helps them better understand decisions and trust in justice;

- in the sphere of judicial system performance:

·         overall, the productivity of Europe’s courts is improving in civil and criminal cases;

·         asylum applications had a significant impact on the number of incoming cases in 2016 in 9 countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland;

·         judicial procedures take longer in administrative cases than in civil cases, and second- and third-instance administrative courts face greater difficulties in handling the influx of cases;

·         in criminal justice, the average rate of cases resolved by the public prosecutor against cases received is 96%, with 42% being discontinued, 28% brought before the courts and 27% resulting in a penalty or a measure imposed or negotiated by the public prosecutor;

·         on the whole, the productivity of criminal courts is improving, although the duration of procedures appears to be lengthening in supreme courts.

For further information

Contact:

Estelle Steiner, Spokesperson/Press officer, Tel. +33 3 88 41 33 35; Mobile +33 6 08 46 01 57

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(*) Of the Council of Europe’s 47 member States, only Liechtenstein and San Marino were unable to provide data. Israel and Morocco took part in the exercise in the capacity of observers with the CEPEJ.