France's Sarkozy to unveil justice reform

French President is planning to scrap the position of examining magistrate, one of the great symbolic figures of the French justice system, Le Monde said.

France's Sarkozy to unveil justice reform

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is planning to scrap the position of examining magistrate, one of the great symbolic figures of the French justice system, in a major overhaul after recent abuses, Le Monde said on Tuesday.

The move builds on recommendations made after the 2000 Outreau child abuse scandal, in which more than a dozen people were wrongfully imprisoned after a flawed investigation by a young and inexperienced magistrate.

The case was widely viewed as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in France since the end of World War Two.

The all-powerful independent examining magistrate, in charge of complex criminal cases, is a familiar figure from media and fictional coverage of a series of political corruption scandals but has been used more sparingly in recent years.

According to Le Monde, examining magistrates are currently responsible for less than 5 percent of criminal cases.

In place of the examining magistrate, investigations would be handed over to the state prosecutor's office, which already handles most criminal cases in France.

Le Monde said the new measure was expected to be announced on Wednesday.

A special commission into a reform of the criminal justice system is due to present a report next month and the majority of its members is in favour of the change, the paper added.

In 2006, a parliamentary committee urged a series of reforms in the wake of the Outreau case.

The proposals included strengthening defendants' rights and separating the roles of investigating magistrates and judges, while replacing single magistrates with teams of three.

Le Monde said the changes to be proposed by Sarkozy would also include stronger rights for defendants.

But they would not make the prosecutor's office independent of the justice ministry, raising fears that the changes could increase political control over sensitive investigations.

Reuters
Last Mod: 06 Ocak 2009, 12:31
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