Webinar: “Trial Waiver Systems in Europe” (Fair Trials)

Trials are key to ensuring that a criminal conviction is fair. In reality, many people in Europe are being convicted of crimes without a trial taking place. When States have too many cases to deal with, often as a result of the ever-increasing reach of criminal law, they resort to trial waiver systems to process cases quickly, regardless of whether people are innocent or guilty.

Trial waiver systems encourage people to give up their right to a full trial in exchange for a concession from the State. This practice has detrimental effects on the people involved. Innocent people can be coerced into thinking that pleading guilty is their only option, or they may fear the consequences or costs of a full trial. There is also evidence that people who are vulnerable, people who are on low incomes, and migrants are disproportionately affected by waiving their right to a trial, reinforcing existing social inequalities in our justice systems.

Strong guarantees must be put in place to protect people and their fundamental rights, as well as the rule of law, by ensuring that authorities are subject to oversight.

On October 26th, 2021, the Trial Waiver Systems in Europe (TWSE) project examined the impact of trial waiver systems in Europe on the right to a fair trial. It brought together partners in Albania (Respublica), Cyprus (KISA), Hungary (Hungarian Helsinki Committee), Italy (Antigone) and Slovenia (Mirovni Institute) and was led by our friends at the NGO Fair Trials.

Our colleague Alejandro Gámez participated in this online event, in which the the project’s findings and recommendations were discussed. Other panellists included Jacqueline Hodgson (Professor of Law, Warwick Law School), Rebecca Helm (Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Exeter), Nathalie Vandevelde (Assistant Legal and Policy Officer, Fair Trials), Nóra Novoszádek (Senior Legal Officer, Hungarian Helsinki Committee), Dorian Matija (Executive Director of Res Publica in Albania), Federica Brioschi (Researcher, Antigone), Nicoletta Charalambidou (Advocate and KISA member, Cyprus) and Katarina Vučko (Mirovni Institute, Slovenia). The event was moderated by Emmanuelle Debouverie (Senior Legal and Policy Officer at Fair Trials).


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