The aim of the CEPEJ is to contribute to improving the quality of justice and the efficiency of its functioning in the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe.
The economic and financial crisis keeps on making the headlines.
It affects many member states of the Council of Europe. How do
they cope with it? Various recovery plans and important budget
cuts are mentioned. Yet, the effects of the economic crisis on
judicial systems are hardly ever evoked within the public
consequences of the economic and financial crisis on the
functioning of judicial systems
4 countries give details about the effects of the crisis
The data presented in this report concern the year 2008. But, the financial and economical crisis intervened meanwhile. In order to provide the most complete information, the CEPEJ asked, during the evaluation exercise, three complementary questions to member States in order to evaluate actual and future impact of the crises on the budgets of the judicial system. 25 member States or entities answered these questions.
4 CEPEJ members have accepted to reply more generally to the question. These are representatives of the Czech Republic, of Spain, of the Netherlands and of United Kingdom. You will find their position in the next pages.
Effects of the economic crisis on the functioning of the judicial system in the Czech Republic
The economic crisis expresses itself first of all by cutting
down the judicial budget and savings in the judicial sphere.
The Ministry of Finance has determined expenses in the amount of
18,536,000,000 CZK for 2011. After negotiation between the
Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance the amount was
gradually increased up to 20,058,532,000 CZK. Compared to the
approved 2010 budget the total expenses of the sector are
reduced by 9.10% (2,009,210,000 CZK). The government approved
the 2011 budget on 22nd September 2010.
Management in terms of savings is quite difficult. It is
necessary to maintain the operation of 115 structural units of
the state and continuous operation of 35 state prisons. In 2011,
insufficient allowance for expenses will mean to stop any bigger
investments and to postpone some important projects, for example
the implementation of the monitoring system of persons convicted
to house arrest.
Execution – number of orders of the execution by private executors:
Insolvency – number of personal bankruptcies:
The Ministry of Justice has prepared several bills with the aim
to save and bring more finances to this sector.
The effects of the economic crises on the Spanish judicial system*
The current economic crisis has affected all aspects of Spanish society, including Justice. The quarterly collection of statistical data on court performance by the Spanish Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) shows that the most immediate consequence of the crisis has been a sustained increase in the number of incoming court cases (9,048,852 in 2009 up by 5,7% from 2008, which already saw an increase of 6,7% from 2007). The court system has been most affected in the civil/commercial and labour areas, while criminal justice remained more stable. Incoming civil cases increased by 18,5% in 2009, on top of an 17,8% increase in 2008. Similarly, labour justice also suffered increases for 2 consecutive years. The impact was specially marked in 1st Instance Social Courts, where incoming cases increased by 17,4% in 2009 and 32% in 2008. For the period 2008-2009, there has therefore been a 15,23% and 13,4% increase in the workload of civil and labour magistrates respectively.
Looking at specific types of cases, proceedings for the
enforcement of mortgage obligations more than doubled in 2008
and further increased by 59% in 2009, reaching 93.319. The
number of bankruptcy proceedings grew exponentially from 1,589
cases in 2007, to 4,813 in 2008 and 7,768 in 2009, which finally
saw a certain slowdown. Dismissal proceedings increased by 55,4%
in 2008 and by 31,5% in 2009.
* The statistical information referred to in this article can be found in the Annual Reports 2008/2009 of the Spanish Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), as well as in the Statistical Bulletins “Justice Data” Nos. 15, 17, 18, and 22 published in the CGPJ site: www.poderjudicial.es
To face the crises in the Netherlands
On 30 September 2010 the new coalition government Rutte-Verhagen presented its strategic action programme Freedom and Responsibility. It announced a budget cut in public expenditures of 18 billion Euros to be carried out between 2011 and 2015. This is nearly 10 % of the total budget of Dutch national government. In 2011, the budget for the judiciary was 935 million Euros and for legal aid, it amounted to 482 million Euros. These budgets have continued to rise in the last decades. Several measures are introduced to keep the budget in control as well as to improve and innovate within the Dutch judicial system.
1. Cost-covering court fees
Frans van der DOELEN
Programme Manager, Department of the Justice System
Ministry of Justice, The Netherlands
Dutch Member of the CEPEJ
Justice in the United Kingdom hardly affected by the crisis
Among the largest member states the UK is probably one of the hardest hit by the economic crisis. Following the recent general election an emergency budget was introduced where it was announced that public spending would be dramatically reduced. The cuts would be applied across nearly all Government Departments and the Ministry of Justice has been asked to reduce its costs by 23% over four years which amounts to £500 million each year for the next four years.
1. Introducing a rehabilitation revolution
2. Reforming of sentences and penalties
3. Reforming courts, tribunals, legal aid and work
with others in the delivery of criminal justice
In reality what will be the impact of the changes? In
terms of prisons it is accepted that the prison
population is too high and continues to increase at an
alarming rate. To combat this, a review will be
undertaken of the sentencing policy to make great use of
non-custodial sentences e.g. community based penalties
together with the introduction of schemes to reduce the
re-offending rate. It is also proposed that over 150
courts should close of which many are only part- time
The provision of Legal Aid and a review of costs
generally will be undertaken to ensure that those that
need assistance will get at and that justice remains
affordable. The number of staff working for the Ministry
of Justice will be reduced and is expected that 15,000
staff will go, hopefully by natural wastage and
voluntary redundancy. The number is made up of 10,000
from the National Offender Management Service and Prison
Service. Court staff will be reduced by 3,000 and a
further 2,000 from Headquarters and associated bodies.
Although this all sounds like bad news it should be seen
as an opportunity to think the unthinkable and drive
through radical reforms that would otherwise be opposed
and rejected. The overall aim is to make the savings
required but still ensure that access to justice is
preserved for those who need it and that the community
is protected from the effects of crime. Once the changes
have all taken effect the Ministry of Justice will be a
leaner and effective place better equipped to meet the
challenges of the future.
Ongoing activities: what's new?
Evaluation of judicial systems
The 2010 edition of the Evaluation report of European Judicial systems has been published during the European Day of Civil Justice, at the main event which took place in Ljubljana (Slovenia), on 25 October 2010.
Timeframes of proceedings
The SATURN Centre for judicial time management continues its work aiming to establish a permanent European Observatory of judicial timeframes, through analysis of qualitative and quantitative data available in member States, and by testing tools on Pilot courts. It has also set up a coaching protocol, allowing interested Courts to be guided in the implementation process of CEPEJ tools and measures in the field of timeframes.
Quality of Justice
The Working Group on Quality of justice will test the use of the handbook for conducting satisfaction surveys aimed at Court users in a significant number of courts. It will support the courts in the operating of results of these surveys and investigate about the possibility of drawing gradually conclusions of such surveys at the level of the Council of Europe. This handbook, which has been adopted by the CEPEJ last September, includes methodological information and model questionnaires aimed for courts wishing to assess the users' perception of public service provided. In addition, the Working group finalized a report on "Contractualisation of judicial processes," prepared by the scientific expert Julien Lhuillier; this report should be approved at the next plenary meeting of the CEPEJ, on 9 and 10 December 2010. Finally, the Study "Quality management in courts and in the judicial organisations in 8 Council of Europe member States", led by the expert Philip Langbroek, with the participation of other researchers, has been published under the series "The CEPEJ Studies".
European Day of Civil Justice (EDCJ)
The main event of the European Day for Civil Justice at which the CEPEJ, co-organised by the Council of Europe and the European Commission, took place in Ljubljana, on 25 October 2010, at the invitation of the Slovenian Ministry of Justice, Mr Aleš ZALAR.
A seminar on European co-operation in civil matters has been organised. The 4th Evaluation report on European judicial systems has been pubhished on this occasion, event which has been part of the Crystal Scales Prize awarding ceremony.
The Council of Europe's Deputy Secretary General as well as eminent personalities from the judicial world participated in this event.
The audio records of the presentation of the report as well as comments from Ministries of Justice who were present, powerpoint presentations of the seminar and presentations of selected projects of the Cristal Scales of justice are available on the internet website.
2010 Prize Crystal Scales of Justice
The Crystal Scales of Justice Prize has been awarded to the Administrative Tribunal of Yambol (Bulgaria) its project: “Everyone is equal before the law, but not everyone is equal before the language” / Promoting clear communication between the Courts and citizens." Three other projects have been awarded with a special mention:
- "Young drivers who are confronted with stories of severe road accidents presented by people of the same age are less likely to engage in risky and reckless driving”, by the Regional Court of Linz and FMG Amor, Austria;
- New way of systematic management of delay reduction projects in courts - combining external expertise and internal participation, University of Technology and Ministry of Justice, Finland
Quality management in courts and in the judicial organisations in 8 Council of Europe member states / A qualitative inventory to hypothesise factors for success or failure by Philip M. Langbroek (Research director, the Netherlands)
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|- 16th CEPEJ plenary meeting (Strasbourg)||9-10 December 2010|
|- 17th meeting of the Bureau of the CEPEJ (Strasbourg)||21 January 2011|
|- 12th plenary meeting of the Lisbon Network||17 February 2011|
|- 9th meeting of the GT-QUAL working group||16-18 February 2011|
|- 9th meeting of the Pilot Group of judicial time management (SATURN)||19-20 May 2011|