The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice

“Comparing our justice systems in order to modernise them”

What a tremendous achievement only five years after the creation of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice! From its very beginning, France has supported this project for evaluating European judicial systems and building a reflection on justice from quantitative data.

That is why I want to take the opportunity of this anniversary to express my full support for this undertaking. I know that we share the same determination for modernising justice.

I see your Commission as an innovative laboratory, which comes up with concrete solutions to improve the quality of justice in Europe and to strengthen the trust of court users in their various systems. You have preferred a pragmatic approach, leading you to observe both public policies of justice and the actions of the practitioners of law. Today, thanks to your work, we have in our possession previously unpublished information on the way judicial systems in 43 of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe function.

This modern justice we work for is, for me, above all, an accessible justice of a high quality. Citizens have rights over their justice system: a right to an impartial justice, a right to a reasonable timeframe for the issue of judicial decisions, a right to the execution of judicial decisions, in other words, a right to a reliable and efficient justice.

In this perspective, I have endeavoured to modernise the organisation, management and functioning of the French justice system, for the sake of court users.

This modern justice is a justice responsible for its future. It is at the same time a more humane, more efficient and a more open justice.

A more humane justice must pay the same attention to the victims as to the detainees, to guarantee the respect of people’s dignity. Therefore, on the one hand, I want, in every court, a judge to be in charge of the fate of victims, and on the other, a general controller of detention places to be responsible for the respect of the fundamental rights of detainees.

A more efficient justice must organise its resources as best it can and evolve with its environment. Thefore the judicial map is being redrawn at the moment..

A more open justice must better represent the diversity of French citizens. In this respect, from January 2008, the Ministry of Justice will organise the preparation of the entrance competition to the national judicial school for deserving students from a modest background.

A modern justice is also a justice which looks to foreign systems to identify best practices and to be inspired by them. In this respect, I have asked the departments of the Ministry of Justice to be curious about our European neighbours’ experiences and to evaluate our actions compared to those of our partners. From a personal point of view, while on a recent travel to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to observe their prison and judicial mechanisms, I noticed how valuable the exchange of experiences are.

A better knowledge of the functioning of the various judicial systems with a view to better reforming these systems is of course the objective of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice.

There is no doubt that this evaluation task is an excellent boost to the improvement of the quality of justice, providing a transparency of the judicial systems which, in turn, contributes to strengthening the trust of court users. That is why it is good that, in the future, this work becomes a reference tool for evaluating European judicial systems

However, the limits of a quantitative approach must not escape us. Indeed, to compare quantitative data from various states, when all experience different economic, geographic and judicial situations is a very difficult undertaking, which must be dealt with cautiously. If justice is to be effective, this cannot just be because of productivity indicators.

The quality of justice is all important. Thefeore it is extremely simplistic to evaluate the results of the various judicial systems from the point of view of figures alone. It is therefore not giving due justice to the work of your commission to boil it down to statistical data and classifications. Your reflection goes beyond that and looks into the qualitative aspects of justice. I would be delighted if, in the future, this aspect of your work were to be more highlighted.

Assimilating the budget allocated to the functioning of justice and the quality of the judicial system is an abusive shortcut, as is highlighting criteria which are exclusively of a quantitative nature: it would seem to me a lack of rigor to say that the quality of justice stems from the number of judges per inhabitant, that the number of courts in a country reveals the quality of its justice system or that a costly judicial system is necessarily the proof of a smooth functioning of justice.

In reality, the requirements of a quality justice can be combined with the control over judicial expenses. Therefore I have initiated in France a procedure of budgetary rationalisation to better spend public funds, without relinquishing their evolution.

All in all, I am conscious of the interest in and the difficulty of the task befalling your commission. This task is an incredibly useful one. It makes us look at foreign systems and invites comparisons. This in turn, leads to solutions to improve our systems. On these two accounts, it is very much the kind of approach to judicial reform which I adhere to.

Rachida Dati
French Minister of Justice