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Efficiency over justice: Insights into trial waiver systems in Europe

About half of prosecuted cases in Europe are now processed outside the framework of a trial.  Our new report, Efficiency over justice: Insights into trial waiver systems in Europe, outlines how this increased reliance on trial waiver systems to resolve criminal cases is undermining the right to a fair trial.

Introduced as a way of dealing with overburdened justice systems, trial waivers have led to fast track punishment without safeguards. As the report shows, people can be directly or indirectly coerced into pleading guilty, and may have limited access to procedural rights. There is often ineffective judicial oversight, and concerns that trial waiver systems contribute to systemic racism and discrimination. 

The report includes key recommendation for how governments can address the issues that led to states having more cases than they can deal with. These include better investment in criminal justice systems and decriminalising certain kinds of behaviour, such as drug use and other minor offences.

The report is based on research into trial waiver systems by partners in five EU countries – Albania (ResPublica), Cyprus (Kisa), Hungary (Hungarian Helsinki Committee), Italy (Antigone), and Slovenia (Mirovni Institute).
Click here to read the report

Trial waiver systems: A guide for policy makers

Fair Trials has produced a guide for policy makers, based on our research and report into trial waiver systems in Europe. This guide includes specific recommendations to help mitigate the potential dangers arising from the introduction and uses of trial waiver systems. 
Click here to download the guide

Fiqiri's story: Forced to give up the right to a fair trial

Fiqiri was pressurised into pleading guilty to something that turned out not to be a crime. His story not only highlights the threat to a fair trial caused by trial waivers but also the discrimination that Roma face. As he says: "The prisons are full of poor people like us." 

Unfortunately, Fiqiri’s story is not unique. Trial waiver systems are on the rise across Europe, as States want to handle cases quickly, regardless of whether people are innocent or guilty. 
Watch Fiqiri's story
 
This project was possible thanks to the financial support of the Justice Programme of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the author and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.
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