France has twice as many judges per inhabitant than other Council of Europe countries

Repairing justice will take time. The figures comparing the means of justice and its functioning in the 46 Council of Europe states, published on Wednesday 5 October, remain cruel for France. According to the 2022 report of the European Commission for the efficiency of justice (Cepej), based on data for the year 2020, France spends € 72.53 per year and per inhabitant to finance its judicial system (excluding prisons, the judicial protection of young people and the functioning of the ministry), where the European average is 78 euros. An average dropped by the countries of central Europe.

Compared to its direct neighbors such as Italy (82 euros per year and per inhabitant), Spain (88 euros) or Germany (141 euros), the gap is staggering. It has not been filled despite the 10% increase from 2016 to 2020 in the budget for the Italian judicial system. Because the means of justice have also increased in other European countries. The 26% increase in the Ministry of Justice budget in three years (2021-2022-2023) should however begin to show up during the next European study in 2024.

This result confirms the diagnosis made by the States General of Justice in July. But it is not certain that Emmanuel Macron’s promise to create 1,500 judicial posts in the five-year period will be enough to make up for the delay. According to Cepej, France had 11.2 judges per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020, compared to 22 on average in Europe, and 3.2 prosecutors (up from 11.8).

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Furthermore, the rest of the staff, although essential for the functioning of justice, such as clerks, civil servants and specialized assistants around the judge, are fewer than elsewhere. This may explain France’s difficulties, because it contradicts Cepej’s rule that when each judge is assisted by more non-judging staff, fewer judges are needed.

Civil justice embolized

This is one of the challenges facing the French system. The “team around the judge”, which should help him in the legal research and in the preparation of decisions, long heralded as a solution for the management of both mass litigation and extremely complex litigation, is slow to become a reality.

“The existence, alongside the judges, of competent personnel exercising well-defined functions and with a recognized status is an essential condition for the efficient functioning of the judicial systems”, observes Cepej. France has an average of 36 non-judgmental employees per 100,000 inhabitants, well below the European average of 58. The consequence is the embolization of civil justice whose efficiency measured by Cepej is among the worst in Europe in terms of coverage rate and volume of cases.

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