“Immediate appearances, a French procedural exception, represent unacceptable second-cl justice”

HAS in the summer of 2023, dozens of hearings in immediate appearance ended at odd hours, sometimes even at daybreak, seeing defendants being judged after hours of waiting, in conditions of exhaustion of resources. justice professionals. At the heart of August, social networks as much as the benches of the atrium of the Paris court collected fatalistic questions from lawyers on the predictions of the end time of the hearing.

This situation is no longer acceptable. Whether for the defendants, as much as for the other participants in the trial, these hearings were already the manifestation of cheap justice. Their working conditions continue to get worse. Initially called “flagrante delictos”, these hearings were reserved for offenses which had just been committed and were ready to be judged. They became “immediate appearances” in 1983 out of a political desire to respond to the feeling of insecurity, they became generalized and multiplied.

The widespread choice of immediate appearance, which falls to the public prosecutor’s office at the end of police custody, corresponds as much to the imperatives of result and speed, as to an insufficiency of judicial means, leading to congestion and deviation from this procedure. For lawyers, the observation is clear: many files have no place there.
Some, too dense, cannot be the subject of a serious examination in a limited time and are subject to investigation. Others require psychiatric expertise, the offenses prosecuted often being committed by precarious and fragile populations.

Insufficient time for effective defense

While one of the reasons for immediate appearances was to provide a rapid response to simple offenses and to reduce the use of pre-trial detention, this procedure has become a factory for convicting and locking up, at the end of hearings where the examination of the charges and the personality of the defendants is too often botched. It still results in increasingly severe decisions.

In practice, these overloaded hearings result in lawyers in a frantic race against time. The court-appointed lawyers are igned between three and five files per day, which they discover the same morning of the hearing. They only have a few hours to review the files, speak with their clients, try to collect personality information and draw up conclusions when the procedure seems irregular to them. Clearly insufficient time for an effective defense.

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