The Council of Europe’s Commission for the Efficiency of Justice has just published its 4th evaluation report. So, how well do Europe’s judicial systems work?
Comparing is not ranking. Right from the start of its study, the CEPEJ makes it clear : its purpose is not to monitor the judicial systems of the Council of Europe’s 47 Member States nor to establish the Top 10 of the best judicial systems, but to help European countries to provide their citizens with more efficient judicial services.
First of all, the report looks at the total annual budget allocated to each nation’s justice system. Here, we will focus specifically on the EU member States except for Germany, which was not able to participate in the report.
In 2008, the UK, (England + Wales + Scotland + N. Ireland), dedicated 161.6 euros per inhabitant to its justice system, followed by Spain with 86.3. Compare these figures to, say, aspiring EU member Turkey, which spends only 11 euros per person.
However a bigger budget is not necessarily synonymous with better justice, the experts say.
The quality and the performance of a justice system also depends on how many magistrates there are, or on its level of computerisation.
Access to justice for all is another key indicator. So is legal aid which countries offer to people who cannot afford lawyers when they find themselves in court. According to the CEPEJ, legal aid, at least in criminal matters, is now available in all the countries surveyed.
1.506 cases on average were granted with legal aid per 100.000 inhabitants in 2008 : from 13.870 cases in the UK to just 247 in Italy.
Finally, the report notes that in a number of countries, vulnerable persons such as victims of rape, children, and juvenile offenders are given special attention with, for instance, adapted hearing facilities and specific procedural rights.
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