French criminal procedure
DOI link for French criminal procedure
French criminal procedure book
French criminal procedure was originally codified in the Code d’instruction pénale of 1808. This was replaced in 1958 by the Code of Criminal Procedure which is currently in force. Any articles referred to in this Chapter will be to this Code unless specified otherwise. Under the 1958 Constitution, criminal procedure falls within the legislative domain of article 34, and therefore regulations play only a limited role in this area, primarily applying parliamentary legislation. Because of article 55 of the Constitution, legislation must conform with international treaties, which is particularly significant in this context due to the 1950 European Convention for the Safeguard of Human Rights. This Convention therefore makes an important contribution to the rules on criminal procedure. In particular, article 6 of the European Convention protects the right to a fair trial in the criminal field. This right is available from the time of the person being charged to the end of the prosecution, and procedures such as on-the-spot penalty fines breach this protection. In considering this right, the courts look at the fairness of the procedures globally, allowing the absence of one guarantee to be counterbalanced by the existence of another. In practice, the Criminal Division of the Cour de cassation generally takes the view that for matters of criminal procedure its principal source is the Code, and the Convention is only of secondary importance. An Act of 31 May 20001 made some important changes to criminal procedure with a view to strengthening the rights of the accused and the victim. This introduced a new opening article for the Code of Criminal Procedure, laying down the general principles that underpin the criminal system. This article states:
In order to protect the citizen from abuses of power it is felt to be important to prevent too much power being given to one individual, and instead to allow one group of people to have the power to carry out only one type of function. Thus the criminal process can be divided into three stages, with different officials responsible for each stage of the procedure:
• the police investigation and the prosecution; • the judicial investigation; • the trial.