APPOINTMENT OF THE FINANCIAL PUBLIC PROSECUTOR (PROCUREUR DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE FINANCIER)
The Conseil supérieur de la magistrature has issued a favourable opinion on the French Minister of Justice's proposal that Eliane Houlette be appointed as the first financial public prosecutor (procureur de la République financier) with national jurisdiction.
The new financial public prosecutor – who will be responsible for investigating complex financial crimes of a significant size, and will have exclusive jurisdiction over matters relating to the stock markets – must take office before 1 February. Confirmation of Ms Houlette's appointment is therefore expected imminently.
Ms Houlette has occupied various roles within the French criminal system, and between 1995 and 2001 she held a specialist role in the financial section of the Paris prosecutor's office. She joined the Paris prosecutor's office as an assistant prosecutor in 2001. In December 2012 she was named Avocat General (prosecutor) at the Paris Court of Appeal.
The French chancellery has also proposed the names of five prosecutors who will form the financial public prosecutor's team.
CUSTODY: THE PARIS CRIMINAL COURT CREATES AN IMPORTANT PRECEDENT REGARDING ACCESS TO THE INVESTIGATION FILE
In a judgment of 30 December 2013, the Paris Criminal Court went beyond the terms of the French law of 14 April 2011 and annulled police detention on the ground that a detainee's counsel had not been given access to the police investigation file. Under the current regime, lawyers are granted limited access to the case file, with the information restricted to the nature and date of the alleged offence and the record of the notification of custody and questioning of the client.
The court accepted an argument based on Article 7.1 of EU Directive 2012/13/UE, which provides that "Where a person is arrested and detained at any stage of the criminal proceedings, Member States shall ensure that documents related to the specific case in the
possession of the competent authorities which are essential to challenging effectively, in accordance with national law, the lawfulness of the arrest or detention, are made available to arrested persons or to their lawyers". As such, custody was quashed on the basis that access to the investigation file had not been granted.
Although the French state must do so by 2 June 2014 at the latest, Directive 2012/13/UE has not yet been transposed into French law. The court's decision therefore foreshadows the future evolution of French law in this area.
GRECO PUBLISHES ITS FOURTH ROUND EVALUATION REPORT ON FRANCE
Following the November 2013 publication of its second report on France's compliance with the recommendations made in its Third Round Evaluation Report, (see the December 2013 update), the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) published its Fourth Round Evaluation Report on France on 27 January 2014.
The report, which was adopted on 6 December 2013, makes 11 recommendations regarding the prevention of corruption among politicians, judges and prosecutors. Of particular interest are the recommendations that:
- All disciplinary powers concerning judges should be concentrated in the hands of the relevant section of the Conseil supérieur de la magistrature (ix).
- Legislation be introduced aligning the procedure for nominating prosecutors with that for nominating magistrates, and providing for the Conseil supérieur de la magistrature to make binding recommendations to the Minister of Justice (x).
- That the Minister of Justice's power to request/obtain information on a particular case should be subject to precise regulation, and that clear limits should be placed on "confidentiality on national security grounds" (secret de la défense nationale), along with the introduction of a procedure designed to prevent undue impediments arising in investigations relating to national or international corruption (xi).
France now has until 30 June 2015 to submit a report detailing the measures taken to implement the GRECO recommendations.