The 2007 Criminal Process Survey
The aim of the survey was to carry out, for the first time in Italy, a monitoring of criminal proceedings based not on the collection of general data, such as those systematically processed by the ministerial databases and those of the individual territorial Courts of Appeal (number of trials, duration, incidence of prescriptions, number of convictions and acquittals, type of offences, etc.), but on the detection of data directly resulting from the observation of the conduct of hearings in the classrooms of the criminal sections (monocratic and collegial). Therefore, more than 1,600 criminal trials held in Rome were monitored on five different days (April-May 2007) in the more than thirty monocratic and collegial courtrooms operating daily in the capital’s judicial city. The surveyors meticulously recorded – on the basis of a carefully prepared questionnaire – all the stages of each of the criminal trials set on the hearing roster, from the moment each trial was opened until its conclusion. In this way, it was possible to reconstruct in detail, and with absolute technical and procedural rigour, the ways and reasons why a criminal trial does not come to a conclusion in due time and in any case within a reasonable time.
The most significant data resulting from the survey is that the trial does not work for structural, administrative and organisational reasons of the judicial apparatus, while no seriously appreciable negative impact can be derived from an “excess of guarantees” which, according to some, would instead be one of the main causes of the paralysis of the criminal trial. The collected data are, in this sense, unequivocal. This survey represents a point of no return in the debate on the reform of the criminal trial aimed at recovering the constitutional principle of the reasonable duration of a trial.