Correcting Wrongful Convictions in France
Has the Act of 2014 Opened the Door to Revision?
Erasmus Law Review , Volume 13 - Issue 4 p. 22- 32
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.