The Minister of Justice announces that a transitional period of “three weeks” will take place in the courts from May 11.
The courts have been almost stopped since the start of confinement. Tuesday, Nicole Belloubet presented a first draft of a plan deconfinement French courts. Masks for agents, regulation of the public in the courts, prioritization of cases: the Keeper of the Seals Nicole Belloubet has thus unveiled its first avenues for the “progressive” resumption of judicial activity.
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Since March 16 and the measures taken to curb the coronavirus, judicial activity has been reduced to civil and criminal emergencies, with the consequence of the referral of thousands of non-priority cases, adding to the already substantial stock of untried cases, after two months of a massive strike by lawyers against the pension reform.
“A gradual recovery”
In an interview with Ouest-France, the Minister of Justice announces a “three-week” transitional period in the courts from May 11 to “ensure a gradual resumption of all activity”, accompanied by health measures . Among them, the distribution of “masks for the general public” for agents and hydroalcoholic gels, “unused” seats for more distance in the courtrooms and a “regulated” opening to the public to “avoid a rebound of the epidemic”, explains Nicole Belloubet.
To help “restart the judicial activity”, the Minister plans “a temporary reinforcement of 1000 temporary workers”. An “inspection mission” is responsible for examining the “precise” situation of the courts. In order to absorb the stock of pending cases, the Keeper of the Seals will “allow prosecutors to review the hearing schedule and prioritize cases”. Priority will be given in particular to “delinquency on the public highway” and to domestic violence, stresses Nicole Belloubet with the regional daily.
“Unfavorable” to an amnesty law
But she said to herself again “unfavorable” to an amnesty law, which she said “(would reverse) the sentences handed down by the courts”. On the question of the “complex” resumption of the assize trials, the minister wants to “widen the lists of jurors to be sure of being able to constitute the juries” and evokes the possibility “to rent rooms outside” when the respect barrier gestures cannot be guaranteed in assize courts.
It also wishes to “extend the experimentation of the criminal courts”, currently carried out in nine departments to judge crimes without popular jury. “Several jurisdictions are candidates,” says Nicole Belloubet. To make up for the delay, the minister also plans to reduce court vacations, from one to two weeks depending on the jurisdiction.
“The prison population will necessarily increase”
Returning to the automatic prolongation of provisional detentions without the intervention of the judge, one of the most criticized provisions of the state of health emergency, Nicole Belloubet ensures that this measure can be lifted as soon as “the deconfinement will be pronounced”. The “historic” fall in the prison population continues in French prisons, with “approximately 60,600” detainees currently according to the minister, which is approximately “12,000” less than on March 16. This decrease is explained by both a decrease in delinquency during confinement and early releases.
But “prison population will necessarily increase with the resumption of criminal activity, “warns the Keeper of the Seals, who called during the transitional period to” absolutely ensure to control prison pressure (…) to avoid an epidemic rebound in detention “.” Au – beyond this period, we must reflect on the control of prison overcrowding and on the lasting improvement of conditions of detention “, says Nicole Belloubet.