Espace presseThema

European Research on Justice

Much research on justice is carried out within the European Associated Laboratory* (LEA) "Delinquency and Policies of Prevention and Public Safety: Franco-German comparative research", and by the European Group of Research into Norms (GERN).

The LEA, established in 1998 as a joint initiative of the CNRS and the Max-Planck Gesellschaft, brings together three research centers: the Center for Sociological Research into Law and Penal Institutions (CESDIP)1, the Institute of Federated Research on Industrial Economies and Societies (IFRESI)2, and the Max-Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (MPIS).
The GERN is a research network that unites some forty centers, and researchers of various disciplines including sociology, history, and law, who work on issues of norms and deviance in ten European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom).

Three research programs carried out by LEA
Police looking to recruit young members of immigrant populations

Dominique Duprez3 and Michel Pinet4 have analysed French police force recruitment from a gender and ethnic point of view. Their analysis is joined by a comparison with German and English practices5.
Since the police force in France is said not to reflect the diversity of the French population, is the recruitment of police officers carried out in a way which – consciously or not – discriminates on the basis of ethnic origin or sex? An analysis of the process of recruitment of police and deputy police officers, based on applications received in two recruiting centers, interviews with recruiters, and the observation of admission panels at work, reveals that the phenomena of selection are indeed complex. The authors of the study found that “If there can be detected an intrinsic influence of candidates' origins or sex on their success at the competitive entry process, it must also be said that this impact depends on the local context”. So-called social disadvantages do not always tend to accumulate against a candidate, so that a female of North African origins does not necessarily suffer a double disadvantage of being female and being of North African descent. In fact in Marseilles, such a candidate has a 1.5 times better chance of entering the force than a female regardless of origin.
In order to adapt to their changing populations, France, Germany and England look to recruit police officers belonging to the most recent communities of immigration. These countries do not, however, proceed in the same fashion, in part because the legal framework is different in each country. In France, for example, ius solis means that young people born of immigrants have a relatively easy access to citizenship, in contrast to the longtime dominance in Germany of ius sanguinis as the  determining factor in access to citizenship. As result, despite Germany's seven million foreign residents, few officers from immigrant background are to be found staffing the police forces of the Länder. As the German police face mounting difficulty on the beat, however, some Länder have begun recruiting officers of foreign extraction. In England the ethnic diversification of the police force has been pushed the furthest, and for longer, than in other countries, without necessary yielding all of the hoped-for results.

At the French-German border, police join forces
The inauguration of common police precinct stations between Alsace and Bade-Wurtemburg, such as the one at Offenburg on the French-German border, represents a novel form of police cooperation which it is hoped will serve as a model for police along the European Union's internal borders.
Azilis Maguer6 (MPOS/CESDIP) demonstrates how different French and German police forces and border police have developed different strategies in response to this innovation. Levels of cooperation vary from force to force and by area of activity, while the strength of personal ties among the actors also plays an important role.
There is nonetheless a certain reticence as well on the part of police officers on the ground, who resent Europeanisation as a kind of brake to their activity since they do not yet have the right to carry on full investigations at the European level. Well-equipped for communications, they know that restrictions elaborated at the national level hinder the continuity of their trans-national exchanges. Nevertheless, the strength of certain cooperative efforts proves to be enough to overcome these barriers, and areas of cooperation do develop and grow.

Victimisation surveys: the great divide of the Rhine
A group of researchers from CESDIP and the Max Planck Institute7 contrasted the methods and practices of victimisation surveys in France and Germany. Differences abound.
For a long time, victimisation surveys inspired very little enthusiasm in France or in Germany. Since then the development of this tool has been carried out quite differently in the two countries. In Germany few national surveys are performed but local survey are common, while in France it is the opposite. In Germany the advocates of victim surveys are local governments, universities, or other local actors like police, businesses, or the press but never the Bund nor the Länder. By contrast, in France large organisations like INSEE (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies) or the Paris area regional government (Ile-de-France) are more likely to undertake such surveys. For different users, different methods; in Germany low-cost techniques such as mailed questionnaires are employed, while in France more costly studies, based on face-to-face interviews or telephone surveys, are the rule.
As survey mechanisms vary so do the uses to which the results are put. In France, specialists construct methods to compare the results of the large surveys with police data, to distinguish worries about safety from real fear, or to develop victim typologies which look more at different kinds of reaction than simply a headcount. Their German counterparts analyse rather the construction of the survey instruments (for example, the effect of the order of the questions) and want to understand the precise effect of the media on fear of crime or to map local fear zones. Finally, German surveys are used to inform local prevention programs, while in France the purpose of these instruments is to provide data for an overall debate on public safety policies.

Three research programs carried out by GERN
Security takes precedence over prevention
Data from seven European countries show a clear tendency to favor reinforced security models and to abandon prevention policies. According to Dominique Duprez (CNRS), the policies developed in the course of the 1990's increasingly emphasise control of criminality.
The 1990's marked a sea change in the area of crime prevention and public safety. First of all, the 90's witnessed the first development of policy in this domain in the countries of Germany, Spain, Portugal, and Greece. Centralised authority in matters of crime and security was reinforced, in contrast to prevention policies in the 1980's (in France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom), which had tended to establish a new relationship between national and local powers. This expansion of central power was accompanied by a reorganisation of policing services featuring in particular the notion of police proximity. In France, the police were given a central role by the middle of the decade. Across Europe a security model based on public policies favoring prevention of victimisation took hold.
In several countries, however, such policies engendered a crisis, as they failed to stem the rise of delinquency or to promote feelings of security. This led to an increasing demand for repressive policies, and some governments moved clearly toward more security-oriented strategies. The crisis of the welfare state and of public regulation played a part here as well; through reductions in social protection and by encouraging labor flexibility, governments contributed to the increase in public insecurity.

White collar crime in Europe
Economic and financial crime is one of the least noticed phenomena in contemporary studies of criminality.  In a collection of studies edited by Paul Ponsaers8 and Vincenzo Ruggiero9, specialists from GERN examine the state of scientific knowledge in this field in nine European Countries.
Research into white collar criminality has re-focused the debate in this area to set it in its political and social context, while reinforcing it with a reflection on methodology and with case studies that display the transnational character of this type of crime, essential for fighting it effectively. They have also pursued the theme of victimisation with not only economic but also social and cultural arguments, and by putting faces to victims.

Tranformations in justice
Justice systems have undergone significant changes recently in the countries of Europe. This is the theme of  GERN seminar led by Philippe Robert (CNRS), and Amedeo Cottino (University of Torino).
From an institutional point of view, the situation remains quite mixed, to say the least. Germany and France share a model which features a fragmented justice fairly dependent on the executive power. Spain, Italy, and Portugal have veered away from this model in the extent to which they confer power to supreme judicial councils. England and Belgium have both established relatively autonomous judiciaries. Worthy also of note is the considerable development of constitutional justice and the construction of a European judicial order that is above all local judges. Criminal proceedings against political and administrative elites have not developed enormously except in certain Latin countries, but it is too early to say whether the phenomenon will become a lasting feature of the landscape or just a reaction in time of crisis. Of more significance is the growth in the number of cases being brought before the courts.



à lire

• Hebberecht P., Duprez D. (Eds)
The Prevention and Security Policies in Europe
Brussels, VUBPRESS, 2002
• Dominique Duprez, Michel Pinet, "La tradition, un frein à l'intégration. Le cas de la police française", Les cahiers de la sécurité intérieure, 2002, 45, pp.111-137.
• Ponsaers P., Ruggiero V., Eds, La criminalité économique et financière en Europe. Economic and Financial Crime in Europe, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2002
Les mutations de la justice : comparaisons européennes. Edited by Philippe Robert, Amedeo Cottino, Alain Bancaud, Erherd Blankenburg et al., Paris, L'Harmattan, 2001.


Fabien Jobard
Researcher at the CNRS
Executive director of the LEA

Philippe Robert
Researcher at the CNRS
Director of the GERN

View web site
View web site
View web site
View web site

Back to homepageContactcredits