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Justice: Council of Europe, a general trend to merge courts

Within the organisation of courts, the general trend is to merge them: they are fewer and fewer, bigger and bigger, more and more specialised, while using “alternative methods for the settlement of controversies” is increasing. This has been found by a Report on “effectiveness and quality of justice”, issued today by the Council of Europe’s Commission for the Efficiency of Justice. Digitisation helps such merging process, but it also helps users “be more aware”, even if “it is human contact that helps them understand decisions better and trust justice more”. It generally “makes Europe’s civil and criminal courts more productive”, even if in 2016 the many applications for asylum have affected the number of cases that have been dealt with (in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). The longest lawsuits are still the civil ones (with an overload of second- and third instances). Criminal justice is getting better, but in the high courts the lawsuits seem to be getting longer. As to judges and public prosecutors, there’s a tendency to “develop advanced training courses and make them compulsory for highly specialist roles or positions”, and to attach more and more importance to the “applicants’ experience in the selection procedures for positions as judges”; the number is still the same, but the number of lawyers has grown, mainly because of the “development of the rule of law and legal assistance in Central and Eastern Europe”. The number of women judges and public prosecutors is growing, but the “glass ceiling” is still “a reality, when it comes to senior roles” and there are no specific measures, except in Germany, to promote gender quality. Lawyers, notaries and senior police posts are still a man’s world.

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