Hiring of magistrates, simplification of the code of criminal procedure… Two bills translating the promises made in January by the Keeper of the Seals in his “action plan for justice” arrive Wednesday in the Council of Ministers.

“We heard what our compatriots, magistrates and justice personnel were saying,” assured Eric Dupond-Moretti in an interview with AFP.

In July 2022, after eight months of consultation and an unprecedented forum signed by thousands of magistrates crying out their “suffering”, the report of the States General had made the alarmist observation of a justice system in a “state of advanced disrepair”, perceived as “too slow” by the French.

“The object, for me, is a more protective justice, a faster, more efficient justice”, summed up the Keeper of the Seals, reaffirming his “ambition to reduce by two” the delays of the procedures, both for justice both civil and criminal justice.

The two texts – an “orientation and programming bill” and an “organic bill relating to the opening, modernization and accountability of the judiciary” – will be debated in Parliament in June.

The first endorses a “historic increase” in the justice budget: 21% over the five-year term.

This will make it possible in particular to finance the creation of 10,000 positions, including 1,500 for magistrates.

“In five years we will hire more magistrates than in the past twenty years,” says Eric Dupond-Moretti.

To achieve this, the “organic bill” provides for “wider access routes” to the profession of magistrate, in particular for other legal professionals (lawyers, clerks, etc.).

Other confirmed reinforcements: 1,500 additional clerks by 2027 and a few hundred “justice attachés”, who will replace the current “assistant lawyers” and “specialist assistants” whose status was deemed too precarious.

This will bring “a real breath of fresh air in the courts”, wants to believe the minister.

The budgetary effort is “real”, greets AFP Cécile Mamelin, vice-president of the Union of magistrates (USM, majority). But she doubts the promise of a rapid improvement in case processing times “while we have been understaffed for thirty years” and that the project includes “additional costs” for magistrates.

“Recruitments are eagerly awaited in the courts”, confirms Thibaut Spriet, national secretary of the Syndicat de la magistrature (SM, ranked on the left), also “very vigilant on certain criminal provisions” of the text.

The bill will authorize the government to proceed by order to a “rewrite” of the code of criminal procedure, to simplify “a tool that has become illegible”.

This project, entrusted in January to a committee of experts, will last until 2024. Monitoring of the work by a group of parliamentarians will be “soon” set up.

In parallel with the bill, several decrees will be published “before the summer”, in particular to develop amicable settlements in civil justice. To go “faster” and put the litigant “at the heart of the justice that concerns him”, justifies Eric Dupond-Moretti, explaining that he wants to “refocus” the judge “on the heart of his job: to say the law”.

These texts take up a large part of the recommendations of the States General, with one major exception, the challenge of prison overcrowding, which reached a new record on April 1 with 73,080 prisoners for 60,899 places, i.e. a density of 120%.

Faced with this chronic evil, the States General had suggested setting for each establishment a threshold of “major overcrowding” beyond which measures to “regulate” the prison population could be “considered”.

“It’s not fair and it doesn’t make sense”, sweeps away the Keeper of the Seals, who prefers to recall the plan to build 15,000 prison places by 2027.

If this program has experienced “some delays”, due in particular “to the difficulty of obtaining land”, “we are in the process of catching up with all that”, said the minister on Wednesday on RTL.

It also highlights other recent mechanisms such as “compulsory release”, which should allow the early release of prisoners sentenced to less than two years’ imprisonment and who have less than three months left to serve. . Finally, he recalls that he regularly encourages the courts to pronounce community service sentences (TIG), “whenever possible”.

05/03/2023 12:53:14 –         Paris (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP