Collection of judicial statistics: organising the national data collection system on the basis of the CEPEJ instruments
Each court in the Council of Europe member states has a duty to deliver its judgments within a reasonable time and with optimum quality. Statistics are instruments whereby the caseload of a court can be effectively managed. The CEPEJ has laid down statistical standards.
Essentially it is a matter of each court, whether or not computerised, being able to produce the following elementary data:
· number of proceedings backlogged at the start of the monitored period
· number of new proceedings initiated
· number of proceedings resolved
· number of proceedings backlogged at the end of the monitored period.
It is also necessary for each court to know its staff numbers (judges, clerks, administrative and other staff) in full-time equivalent having assisted in the handling of proceedings during the monitored period.
On the basis of the elementary figures mentioned above, various useful indicators can be calculated, in particular:
· Clearance rate (CR indicator): relationship between the new cases and completed cases within a period, in percentage.
· Case turnover ratio: relationship between the number of resolved cases and the number of unresolved cases at the end of the monitored period. This requires a calculation of the number of times during the year (or other observed period) that the cases of a given standardised type are turned over or resolved.
· Disposition time (DT indicator) : The ratio measures how quickly a court completes the received cases and provides further insight into how it manages its flow of cases.
The above-mentioned guidelines give detailed information on the method for working out these indicators (see section 5 of Appendix I to the guidelines).
Finally, the CEPEJ has selected the following four types of case: litigious divorce, dismissal, robbery and intentional homicide. These are cases that occur in the great majority of European states, having an immediate impact on the citizens in their daily lives and a common definition at European level:
· Litigious divorce cases: i.e. the dissolution of a marriage between two persons, by the judgement of a court of a competent jurisdiction. Do not include divorce governed by an agreement between the parties concerning the separation of the spouses and all its consequences (procedure of mutual consent, even if handled by the court) or by an administrative procedure.
· Employment dismissal cases: cases concerning the termination of an employment contract at the behest of the employer (working in the private sector). It does not include dismissals of public officials, following a disciplinary procedure for instance.
· Robbery is stealing from a person with use or threat of force. If possible these figures should include: muggings (bag-snatching, armed theft, etc) and exclude pick-pocketing, extortion and blackmail (according to the definition of the European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice). The data should not include attempts.
· Intentional homicide is defined as the intentional killing of a person. Where possible the figures should include: assault leading to death, euthanasia, infanticide and exclude suicide assistance (according to the definition of the European Sourcebook of Crime and Criminal Justice). The data should not include attempts.
Judicial statistics officers are invited to incorporate the four above-mentioned types of cases into the existing statistics as they correspond to the European standards and will be consistently called for in the years ahead, particularly in the CEPEJ’s statistical tables.
Jacques Bühler, Doctor of Law
Chair of the Steering group of the SATURN Centre (judicial time management) of the CEPEJ