22 Oct 2016, 37 mins ago

The European Commission has just published its 2015 EU Justice Scoreboard. This is the third edition of this annual report, which aims to identify indicators and trends in relation to the justice systems of the EU.

The report focuses on three key areas:

• The efficiency of justice systems;

• The quality of justice systems;

• The independence of the judiciary.

A lack of data from all member states makes it difficult to effectively compare the efficiency of judicial systems across the EU. Nevertheless the report identifies significant differences in efficiency between Member States and indeed between areas of law. The majority of Member States demonstrate a positive trend in terms of efficiency with some notable exceptions.

The report considers the quality of justice in relation to a number of indicators focussing on the allocated resources and the administrative judicial systems that are in place for example the use of information technology, Alternative Dispute Resolution, legal aid and the availability of information to members of the public. The report identifies some positive trends but again a lack of historic data makes any meaningful analysis difficult. There are clear variances across the Member States.

Finally, in relation to judicial independence the disparity between some member states is startling. For example, for ‘perceived judicial independence’ Finland is ranked as 2/144 countries in the world compared with Bulgaria and Slovakia at 126/144 and 130/144 respectively. What is particularly concerning is that levels of perceived independence appear to have dropped in past three years in several Member States.

Whilst Gherson welcomes a focus on justice standards across the EU it is a shame that this report seeks to focus on civil and commercial law as opposed to criminal justice. It is clear to us that there are wide variances in the criminal justice systems throughout the Member States of the EU. This is not surprising but it is particular troubling given the increasing use of EU policing and judicial cooperation measures such as the European Arrest Warrant. These systems are based on mutual trust and respect of the judicial systems of Member States. The rapid expansion of the EU has led to a massive variance in the quality of judicial systems particular in some of the more recent Member States.

Successfully challenging a European Arrest Warrant is notoriously difficult. There is no assessment of the merits of an allegation before an individual is extradited under a European Arrest Warrant and there are many examples of individuals who have faced extended periods of detention abroad in connection with charges that have later been dropped or found to be baseless.

Gherson has extensive experience of dealing with extraditions to and from many EU Member States and the quality of the judicial and penal systems varies dramatically. This makes it all the more important for individuals facing extradition within the EU to obtain advice from expert extradition lawyers at an early stage. If you wish to speak to a member of our extradition team please don’t hesitate to contact us.

19 March 2015