Criminal Trial Report (2008)

27 sample courts, 600 observers engaged in monitoring approximately 13,000 trials: an innovative and ambitious survey, carried out on the field with the aim of bringing to light the real problems affecting our judicial system.

In April 2007, Eurispes and the Rome Criminal Chamber, in order to establish an operational and scientific agreement, organised and carried out a survey – the first of its kind – aimed at verifying, according to the rigorous criteria of statistical science, what really happened in the courtrooms of the Capital engaged in the celebration of ordinary criminal trials.

The research stemmed from the observation, although not documented until then, that daily experience in the courtrooms offered indicators on criminal trial that were not expressed by the officially collected general data, which do not explain the real reasons for the malfunctioning of the system. This gave rise to the idea of a study that was destined to constitute a point of no return in the age-old disputes on the causes of the unreasonable length of criminal trials in Italy.

One year later, the same survey was repeated with an ambitious objective: to monitor proceedings through the analysis of a national statistical sample and to compare the results with those already obtained in Rome.

It was a truly extraordinary organisational effort, involving 27 territorial criminal chambers according to the statistical indications developed by Eurispes, and with the consequent analysis of an impressive number of data to be analysed: 12,918 forms, each corresponding to a criminal trial monitored. An innovative survey, carried out in the field with the aim of bringing to light the real problems that plague our judicial system, through the monitoring of trials that took place in the Courts of: Ancona, Bari, Bologna, Brescia, Cagliari, Catania, Catanzaro, Florence, Lucca, Macerata, Melfi, Milan, Modena, Modica, Monza, Naples, Padua, Palermo, Parma, Piacenza, Rome, Salerno, Sassari, Turin, Trani, Trieste, Varese and Venice.

The survey days were organised with the specific aim of reconstructing and complying as faithfully as possible with the organisation of hearings in the individual courts considered. The monitoring strictly followed the entire time span of the individual hearings: all the measurements began with the opening of the hearing and ended with the closure of the hearing itself. The proportions of collegiate (8%) and monocratic (92%) hearings monitored are substantially in line with the percentage ratio between monocratic and collegiate trials held daily in Italy.

What is the impact, in the normal course of a criminal trial, of the defendant’s inability to appear because he is involved in another trial, and what is the impact of the Public Prosecutor’s failure to summon witnesses for the hearing? How much is affected by the nullity of the notice of conclusion of preliminary investigations, with the consequent regression of the trial phase, and how much by the absence of the titular judge? And how much do the errors in the notification of the acts, or the absence of the interpreter or the experts, or the failure to appear of the witnesses, although regularly summoned for the hearing, starting with agents or officers of the Judicial Police Force?

These are the questions to which the survey carried out by Eurispes in collaboration with the Union of Italian Criminal Chambers wanted to give an answer to.


Criminal Trial Report 2008



In front of the law by Gian Maria Fara

For a reform of justice by Oreste Dominioni

The survey


Origins of the research

The national challenge of the U.C.P.I.

Object and method of the research

Data collection: criteria and methodologies adopted

Guide to data reading

The correct data reading about the topic of “postponement” of trials. An important warning

The comparison with Rome data of 2007


Data analysis

How long does a single trial last in each hearing; and how many days does a postponement “cost”?

One defendant, one trial

Alternative proceedings do not work

The outcome of trials: how many sentences, how many postponements

Judge’s immutability and trial duration: a false problem

General reasons for postponement

The reasons for postponement specific to the pre-trial investigation

The sentence: how many acquittals, how many convictions


Comparative analysis of data by geographical areas

Court of Ancona

Court of Bari

Court of Bologna

Court of Brescia

Court of Cagliari

Court of Catania

Court of Catanzaro

Court of Florence

Court of Lucca

Court of Macerata

Court of Melfi

Court of Milan

Court of Modena

Court of Modica

Court of Monza

Court of Naples

Court of Padova

Court of Palermo

Court of Parma

Court of Piacenza

Court of Salerno

Court of Sassari

Court of Turin

Court of Trani

Court of Trieste

Court of Varese

Court of Venice



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