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Tale of Two Reforms: French Defense Rights and Police Powers in Transition

NCJ Number
Criminal Law Forum Volume: 6 Issue: 3 Dated: (1995) Pages: 473-506
S Field; A West
Date Published
34 pages
The January and August 1993 criminal justice reforms in France have profoundly affected the issues of the role of defense attorneys and the scope of police powers and authority in inquisitorial criminal justice system.
The January 1993 reforms were enacted by the socialist government and based on recommendations made by the Delmas-Marty Commission in 1990. Two months later the right wing took power. It enacted new legislation in August 1993 that retained a few of the reforms, modified others only in detail, and eliminated others. The general effect was to blunt the January law's radical edge. Nevertheless, the reforms remain important in that they seem to shift underlying conceptions of the rights of the defense in France. The reforms have been portrayed in the United Kingdom rather as a straightforward move toward adversarial ideals and structures, particularly the introduction of the adversarial method in the pretrial process. However, many of these comments fail to place the reforms properly in the context of the indigenous procedural tradition and the particular challenges it presents. The reforms seem to indicate a changing emphasis in the balance between judicial supervision and defense rights as a means of guaranteeing the integrity of the criminal justice. Whether the new defense rights are effective in this regard will depend on whether the relevant services are sufficiently well organized, supported, and culturally committed to take advantage of the new formal opportunities. Footnotes


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