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Erasmus Law Review

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Issue 4, 2020 Expand all abstracts
Article

Access_open Mechanisms for Correcting Judicial Errors in Germany

Keywords criminal proceedings, retrial in favour of the convicted, retrial to the disadvantage of the defendant, Germany, judicial errors
Authors Michael Lindemann and Fabienne Lienau
AbstractAuthor's information

    The article presents the status quo of the law of retrial in Germany and gives an overview of the law and practice of the latter in favour of the convicted and to the disadvantage of the defendant. Particularly, the formal and material prerequisites for a successful petition to retry the criminal case are subject to a detailed presentation and evaluation. Because no official statistics are kept regarding successful retrial processes in Germany, the actual number of judicial errors is primarily the subject of more or less well-founded estimates by legal practitioners and journalists. However, there are a few newer empirical studies devoted to different facets of the subject. These studies will be discussed in this article in order to outline the state of empirical research on the legal reality of the retrial procedure. Against this background, the article will ultimately highlight currently discussed reforms and subject these to a critical evaluation as well. The aim of the recent reform efforts is to add a ground for retrial to the disadvantage of the defendant for cases in which new facts or evidence indicate that the acquitted person was guilty. After detailed discussion, the proposal in question is rejected, inter alia for constitutional reasons.


Michael Lindemann
Michael Lindemann is Professor for Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure and Criminology at the Faculty of Law of Bielefeld University, Germany.

Fabienne Lienau
Fabienne Lienau is Research Assistant at the Chair held by Michael Lindemann.
Article

Access_open The Challenges for England’s Post-Conviction Review BodyDeference to Juries, the Principle of Finality and the Court of Appeal

Keywords wrongful conviction, criminal justice, Criminal Cases Review Commission, Court of Appeal, discretion.
Authors Carolyn Hoyle
AbstractAuthor's information

    Since 1997, the Criminal Cases Review Commission of England, Wales and Northern Ireland has served as a state-funded post-conviction body to consider claims of wrongful conviction for those who have exhausted their rights to appeal. A meticulous organisation that has over its lifetime referred over 700 cases back to the Court of Appeal, resulting in over 60% of those applicants having their convictions quashed, it is nonetheless restricted in its response to cases by its own legislation. This shapes its decision-making in reviewing cases, causing it to be somewhat deferential to the original jury, to the principle of finality and, most importantly, to the Court of Appeal, the only institution that can overturn a wrongful conviction. In mandating such deference, the legislation causes the Commission to have one eye on the Court’s evolving jurisprudence but leaves room for institutional and individual discretion, evidenced in some variability in responses across the Commission. While considerable variability would be difficult to defend, some inconsistency raises the prospects for a shift towards a less deferential referral culture. This article draws on original research by the author to consider the impact of institutional deference on the work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission and argues for a slightly bolder approach in its work


Carolyn Hoyle
Carolyn Hoyle is Professor of Criminology at the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, UK.
Article

Access_open Overturning Wrongful Convictions by Way of the Extraordinary Review: The Spanish Experience

Keywords extraordinary review, remedies, fair trial, wrongful convictions, criminal justice, innocence, procedural safeguards, justice
Authors Lorena Bachmaier and Antonio Martínez Santos
AbstractAuthor's information

    According to the traditional view, the ultimate aim of the extraordinary review (recurso de revisión) provided in the Spanish justice system was to deal with wrongful criminal convictions and correct those serious miscarriages of justice which became apparent only after the judgment had become final. However, the 2015 reform called this traditional view into question by formally including two additional grounds for review that are not necessarily related to the correcting miscarriages or blatant mistakes in the assessment of the facts made by the sentencing court. This paper aims to give an overview of the extraordinary review in Spain. To that end it will first address the legal framework and its practical implementation, as well as present pitfalls and best practices. Finally, future trends and challenges will be identified in order to improve the protection of defendants who have suffered a wrongful conviction.


Lorena Bachmaier
Lorena Bachmaier Winter is Professor of Law at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

Antonio Martínez Santos
Antonio Martínez Santos is Associate Professor of Law, Francisco de Vitoria University, Madrid.
Article

Access_open Correcting Wrongful Convictions in France: Has the Act of 2014 Opened the Door to Revision?

Keywords Final criminal conviction, revision procedure, grounds for revision, preparatory investigative measures, Cour de révision et de réexamen
Authors Katrien Verhesschen and Cyrille Fijnaut
AbstractAuthor's information

    The French ‘Code de procédure pénale’ provides the possibility to revise final criminal convictions. The Act of 2014 reformed the procedure for revision and introduced some important novelties. The first is that it reduced the different possible grounds for revision to one ground, which it intended to broaden. The remaining ground for revision is the existence of a new fact or an element unknown to the court at the time of the initial proceedings, of such a nature as to establish the convicted person’s innocence or to give rise to doubt about his guilt. The legislature intended judges to no longer require ‘serious doubt’. However, experts question whether judges will comply with this intention of the legislature. The second is the introduction of the possibility for the applicant to ask the public prosecutor to carry out the investigative measures that seem necessary to bring to light a new fact or an unknown element before filing a request for revision. The third is that the Act of 2014 created the ‘Cour de révision et de réexamen’, which is composed of eighteen judges of the different chambers of the ‘Cour de cassation’. This ‘Cour de révision et de réexamen’ is divided into a ‘commission d’instruction’, which acts as a filter and examines the admissibility of the requests for revision, and a ‘formation de jugement’, which decides on the substance of the requests. Practice will have to show whether these novelties indeed improved the accessibility of the revision procedure.


Katrien Verhesschen
Katrien Verhesschen is PhD candidate and teaching assistant at the Institute of Criminal Law KU Leuven.

Cyrille Fijnaut
Cyrille Fijnaut is Emeritus Professor of Criminal Law & Criminology at Erasmus University Rotterdam, KU Leuven and Tilburg University.
Article

Access_open Chosen Blindness or a Revelation of the Truth?

A New Procedure for Revision in Belgium

Keywords final criminal conviction, revision procedure, grounds for revision, Court of Cassation, Commission for revision in criminal matters
Authors Katrien Verhesschen and Cyrille Fijnaut
AbstractAuthor's information

    The Belgian Code of criminal procedure provides the possibility to revise final criminal convictions. This procedure had remained more or less untouched for 124 years, but was finally reformed by the Act of 2018, after criticism was voiced in legal doctrine concerning its narrow scope and possible appearances of partiality and prejudice. The Act of 2018 therefore broadened the third ground for revision, the so-called novum, and defined it as an element that was unknown to the judge during the initial proceedings and impossible for the convicted person to demonstrate at that time and that, alone or combined with evidence that was gathered earlier, seems incompatible with the conviction, thus creating a strong suspicion that, if it had been known, it would have led to a more favourable outcome. Thereby, this ground for revision is no longer limited to factual circumstances, but also includes changed appreciations by experts. To counter appearances of partiality and prejudice, the Act of 2018 created the Commission for revision in criminal matters, a multidisciplinary body that has to give non-binding advice to the Court of Cassation on the presence of a novum. However, the legislature also introduced new hurdles on the path to revision, such as the requirement for the applicant to add pieces that demonstrate the ground for revision in order for his or her request to be admissible. For that reason, the application in practice will have to demonstrate whether the Act of 2018 made the revision procedure more accessible in reality.


Katrien Verhesschen
Katrien Verhesschen is a PhD candidate and teaching assistant at the Institute of Criminal Law KU Leuven.

Cyrille Fijnaut
Cyrille Fijnaut is Emeritus Professor of Criminal Law & Criminology at Erasmus University Rotterdam, KU Leuven and Tilburg University.
Article

Access_open The Right to Claim Innocence in Poland

Keywords wrongful convictions, right to claim innocence, reopening of criminal proceedings, miscarriage of justice, revision of final judgment
Authors Wojciech Jasiński Ph.D., habilitation and Karolina Kremens Ph.D.
AbstractAuthor's information

    Wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice, their reasons and effects, only rarely become the subject of academic debate in Poland. This article aims at filling this gap and providing a discussion on the current challenges of mechanisms available in Polish law focused on the verification of final judgments based on innocence claims. While there are two procedures designed to move such judgment: cassation and the reopening of criminal proceedings, only the latter aims at the verification of new facts and evidence, and this work remains focused exactly on that issue. The article begins with a case study of the famous Komenda case, which resulted in a successful innocence claim, serving as a good, though rare, example of reopening a case and acquitting the convict immediately and allows for discussing the reasons that commonly stand behind wrongful convictions in Poland. Furthermore, the article examines the innocence claim grounds as regulated in the Polish criminal procedure and their interpretation under the current case law. It also presents the procedure concerning the revision of the case. The work additionally provides the analysis of the use of innocence claim in practice, feeding on the statistical data and explaining tendencies in application for revision of a case. It also presents the efforts of the Polish Ombudsman and NGOs to raise public awareness in that field. The final conclusions address the main challenges that the Polish system faces concerning innocence claims and indicates the direction in which the system should go.


Wojciech Jasiński Ph.D., habilitation
Wojciech Jasiński is Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Procedure of the University of Wroclaw, Poland. orcid.org/0000-0002-7427-1474

Karolina Kremens Ph.D.
Karolina Kremens is Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Procedure of the University of Wroclaw, Poland. orcid.org/0000-0002-2132-2645
Article

Access_open Post-Conviction Remedies in the Italian Criminal Justice System

Keywords wrongful conviction, revision, extraordinary appeal, rescission of final judgment, res judicata
Authors Luca Lupária Donati and Marco Pittiruti
AbstractAuthor's information

    The Italian Constitution expressly contemplates the possibility of a wrongful conviction, by stating that the law shall determine the conditions and forms regulating damages in case of judicial error. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many provisions of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) deal with the topic. The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the post-conviction remedies in the Italian legal system by considering the current provisions of the CCP, on the one hand, and by exploring their practical implementation, on the other.


Luca Lupária Donati
Luca Lupária is Full Professor of Criminal Procedure at Roma Tre University, Director of the Italy Innocence Project and President of the European Innocence Network.

Marco Pittiruti
Marco Pittiruti is researcher of Criminal Procedure at Roma Tre University.
Article

Access_open Exoneration in Sweden: Is It Not about Time to Reform the Swedish Model?

Keywords wrongful convictions, extraordinary legal remedy, exoneration, exoneration in Sweden
Authors Dennis Martinsson
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article reviews exoneration in Sweden, with a focus on the procedure of applying for exoneration. First, it highlights some core features of Swedish criminal procedural law, necessary to understand exoneration in the Swedish context. Secondly, it outlines the possibilities in Swedish law to apply for exoneration, both in favour of a convicted person and to the disadvantage of a previously acquitted defendant. Thirdly, it identifies some challenges with the current Swedish model of administering applications for exoneration. Fourthly, it argues that the current system should be reformed by introducing into Swedish law a review committee that administers applications for exoneration.


Dennis Martinsson
Dennis Martinsson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Law of Stockholm University in Sweden.