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Relations between justice and society – Working session with Polish judges

Poland’s National Council of the Judiciary (NCJ) had invited the CCJE-GT to hold its 8th meeting in Katowice so as to foster the pooling of experience by CCJE-GT members and judges from the courts in the Katowice region. It was against this background that it had proposed that a debate be held on relations between justice and society.

The CCJE-GT underlined that the theme proposed by the NCJ was in line with the subject being considered by the CCJE in 2005 (see part IV above). The proposal to involve the CCJE directly in the national debate on possible improvements in relations between justice and society fitted in perfectly with part of the CCJE’s terms of reference (“providing practical assistance to enable states to comply with Council of Europe standards concerning judges”).

During the working session with the judges from the courts that came under Katowice District Court (approximately 50 people), the Chair of the CCJE described the body and, in particular, the work on the draft opinion on relations between justice and society. At the request of the participants, the CCJE-GT delegations reported on best practices and particular difficulties encountered in relations between courts and the media in their respective countries.

In the course of the discussion that followed the various presentations, the participants voiced their concerns about the accuracy of the information supplied by the press both about the quality of the judiciary and about proceedings. They stressed the need to train journalists in basic legal concepts, while acknowledging the difficulty of putting that into practice. They also underlined the need to train court spokespersons in relations with the media and the need for spokespersons to exchange information at European level. This could be done through associations of court spokespersons, the setting up of which should be encouraged in countries which did not already have them.

The educational role which the courts should play was mentioned several times. The development of court public relations policies, the holding of “open days”, measures to raise young people’s awareness of the operation of the judiciary and the publication of decisions on the Internet were mentioned as means of moving justice closer to society and improving general legal awareness.

Reports on the working session in Katowice were broadcast on local radio and television.

During the visit to Chorzˇw Court, the CCJE-GT delegations attended a hearing in a criminal case, found out about the operating methods of the court, which had jurisdiction for both criminal and civil cases, and held discussions with the local judges about practical aspects of the work of judges.

The CCJE-GT believed that meetings between the CCJE and the domestic courts in the various member states should be continued and expanded. On the one hand, they enabled the CCJE to find out more about the situation on the ground, which helped it to expand its base of expertise for the preparation of opinions, while, on the other, they were a very effective means of raising domestic judges’ awareness of the Council of Europe’s judicial standards.

Framework Programme of the meeting in Katowice

Katowice, 27-29 April 2005

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

9.30 Arrival in Katowice

8th meeting of the CCJE-GT

13.00 Lunch (restaurant the Marchołt, rue Warszawska)

14.30 Meeting with the Presidency of the Regional Court of Katowice with the participation of the President of the National Council of Justice of Poland and the President of the City of Katowice

15.30 8th meeting of the CCJE-GT - continued

18.00 Registration at the hotel

19.00 Dinner hosted by Mr Piotr Uszok, President of the City of Katowice

Thursday, 28 April 2005

10.00 Working session with the Polish judges (approximately 50 people) on the relations between justice and society

12.30 Lunch (restaurant the Marchołt or hotel’s restaurant – as preferred)

13.45 Visit to the courtrooms of the Regional Court of Katowice (high security courtroom), rue Koszarowa and of the Court of Chorzˇw

16.00 8th meeting of the CCJE-GT - continued

19.00 Dinner

Friday, 29 April 2005

9.00 8th meeting of the CCJE-GT - continued

13.00 Closure of the 8th meeting of the CCJE-GT