This publication was updated on 30 November 2020
An Ordinance adapting the rules applicable before judicial courts ruling in criminal matters was published on 18 November 2020, on the basis of Law No. 2020-1379 of 14 November 2020 authorising the extension of the state of public health emergency and providing for various measures to handle the health crisis (the "Criminal Procedure Ordinance").
The purpose of this text is "to allow the continuity of the criminal courts' activities" in the context of the second lockdown (reconfinement) through the adoption of a certain number of exceptional measures.
The Criminal Procedure Ordinance's provisions are applicable until the expiry of a one-month period from the end date of the state of public health emergency.
The measures adopted pursuant to the Criminal Procedure Ordinance's terms are significantly less forceful than those adopted during the first lockdown in March 2020. Indeed, the Criminal Procedure Ordinance does not provide for the suspension of the statute of limitations, nor for the extension of time-limits for appeals, nor for the adjustment of police custody measures, nor for the relaxation of the conditions applying to pre-trial detention, nor for the adjustment of sentence enforcement conditions.
Furthermore, in practice, criminal proceedings are continuing (hearings, examinations, trials are mostly maintained unless there are any specific difficulties), while they had come to a standstill (excluding emergency criminal activity, in particular immediate trials) in spring 2020.
EXTENSION OF THE OPTION TO USE MEANS OF AUDIO-VISUAL TELECOMMUNICATION
Article 2 of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance enables the use of audio-visual telecommunication means before all criminal courts (juridictions pénales), and for presentations to the Republic prosecutor (procureur de la République) or the general advocate (procureur général). The parties' prior agreement is not mandatory.
The application of these provisions before the higher criminal courts trying the most serious offenses (cour d'assises and cour criminelle) was suspended by the Conseil d'Etat in its decision handed down in summary proceedings on 27 November 2020.
TRANSFER OF JURISDICTION
Article 3 of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance enables, subject to some conditions, the transfer of jurisdiction of a first instance criminal court to another court of the same type located within the jurisdiction of the former court, when the first one is totally or partially unable to function.
RESTRICTED PUBLICITY OF HEARINGS
Article 4 of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance allows derogating from the principle of public hearings and communication of judgments before the assize courts (cours d'assises) and the correctional courts (tribunaux correctionnels), by holding hearings with a limited public.
POSSIBILITY OF A SINGLE-JUDGE RULING
Articles 6, 7 and Article 8 paragraph 1 of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance authorise, subject to the publication of a decree confirming a lasting public health crisis liable to compromise the proper running of the courts despite the implementation of other provisions of the Criminal Procedure Ordinance, certain collegiate courts such as the investigation chamber of the court of appeal (chambre de l'instruction) ruling in correctional matters, the correctional court, or the correctional appeals court, to rule with a single judge.
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This legal update is not intended to be and should not be construed as providing legal advice. The addressee is solely liable for any use of the information contained herein and the Law Firm shall not be held responsible for any damages, direct, indirect or otherwise, arising from the use of the information by the addressee.
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