After three years of experimentation in fifteen French departments, the criminal court departments (CCD), throughout the territory, including Limousin, will take over from the Assizes courts, for almost 50% of the cases, according to estimates. Key difference: CCDs are composed only of professional judges, with no popular jury.
Of course, this is not the main one of the traditional changes of 1eh January. Finally, not the one that got the most attention.
But since the beginning of the year, the experiment of courts of the criminal department (CCD), initiated three years ago in fifteen French departments, has been extended to the entire territory, with the exception of Mayotte.
Thus, Limousin will see three criminal court departments created, one in Haute-Vienne, one of Corrèze and one in Creusein the same places as the three existing Courts of Assizes (Limoges, Tulle and Gueret).
However, if the proposal officially went into effect on 1eh January, it will probably only start between May and next September, depending on the department.
These CCDs are designed with a dual purpose : speed up the course of justice, and let it save money.
These CCDs were created to position themselves between the correctional courts and the assize courts, in terms of seriousness of facts.
In fact, they will rule on facts where the sentence is between fifteen years minimum and twenty years maximum imprisonment.
Concretely, it is major cases of rape, attempted rape, assault and battery resulting in death, or even armed robbery, which will concern.
Facts that, until now, have been judged in the assize court, but may, for some, move to the criminal courts.
Crimes with recidivism, murder and manslaughter, as well as appeals, will remain strictly within the framework of the legal competences of the assizes.
The main difference between one of these CCDs and an assize court is that the latter sees a famous judgeconsisting of six citizens drawn by lot (nine counting possible replacements).
At CCD, the verdict is ensured only by a panel of five professional judgesor, in fifteen experimental departments, including Haute-Vienne, four of them as well as an honorary lawyer (the lawyer has stopped practicing for at least five years).
As in an assize court, hearings can be held in public or behind closed doors, at the request of one of the parties, and take place over several days.
According to a public report published this fall, since the start of the experiment in 2019, and until mid-2022, 387 cases have been tried before a CCD, that is, about 42% of the cases usually handled by sitting courts.
In total, 428 people were convicted of CCDs, and 83% were for acts of rape.
Still according to this report, these cases will require 863 hearing days in total, when it took, a priori, 982 in the Assize Courts, that is, a gain of 12% in time, not to mention the a hearing time of 11.8 months on average, versus 2 to 3 times longer before the assizes.
As for the savings, the Ministry of Justice estimates a day of assize court (main compensation for jurors) at €2060, against €1100 for a day of CCD.
The experiment therefore seems convincing. However, there is no lack of opposition, coming from politicians, but also from magistrates and even more from lawyers.
On the one hand, the time savings, albeit minimal, seem to be offset by the higher appeal rate in CCD decisions compared to Assize Courts (21% versus 15%).
On the other hand, these CCDs are set up in no fixed way, and since five professional magistrates are needed as opposed to three in Assizes, they therefore have to be located somewhere. If in family affairs, for example, we seek reinforcements, the processing of divorce files will be delayed.
Finally, for many, it is the very principle of mob justice in question, as explained to us by Richard Doudet, the president of Haute-Vienne :
“As to limitation and acquittal, since it will be mainly a matter of rape cases, it is true that in some cases, especially for minors, the assize court has a side that is sometimes too solemn, too- excessive and in some cases traumatic for the victims.
But where do we find a way to assign so many judges to these CCDs? And the principle of honorary lawyers does not change anything.
And above all, it is to push people out of the courts, which is nevertheless the main principle of French justice since the Revolution. In any judgment of any jurisdiction, it is written: in the name of the French people! That is true democracy.
The assizes in France were certainly exemplary, for time was taken up there, by the audience, by the hearing, by the victim, by the presumed culprit, and by debate. This was the last real place where people were asked for their opinion.
But it is now a democracy that is disruptive, because it takes time, because it is expensive. Litigation is now experienced as a stock to be managed“.