Corpus Juris

Corpus Juris in Europe

Description of Corpus Juris

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes corpus juris in the following terms: [1] Consciously echoing the great sixth century compilation of Roman law under the Emperor Justinian, Corpus Juris is a project to create an éspace judiciaire européen, or ‘European legal area’, in the field of criminal justice (see more in this European encyclopedia). The 1992Maastricht Treaty designated certain judicial fields as ‘matters of common interest’, requiring co-operation between member states. In 1997, the Treaty of Amsterdam escalated ‘common interest’ to ‘common action’ which would necessitate some ‘approximation of rules’. The same year, a closed conference, sponsored by the Commission and attended by the president of the European Parliament, received a text drafted by EU legal experts, Corpus Juris, in which these aspirations were put into the form of concrete proposals. The experts’ paper envisaged a Brussels-based public prosecutor, or ‘investigating judge’, with EU-wide powers of arrest, deportation, detention (without a hearing) for up to nine months and finally committal to trial. The protection for the accused would be a ‘judge of freedoms’, who would be obliged to check that the arrest warrant was ‘lawful’, but not to examine whether there was prima facie evidence of guilt. National authorities would be subordinate to the public prosecutor and would be under a duty to assist him.

These proposals largely reflected current practices under the Continental justice system, but their impact in the UK would be disturbing (see more in this European encyclopedia). Trial by jury (established by Magna Carta in 1215) would be replaced by trial before judges: habeas corpus (a safeguard enacted in 1679) would effectively be abolished. Corpus Juris has not been formally put to the Council of Ministers, and is portrayed in the first instance as a means to combat EU cross-border fraud. But the Treaty of Amsterdam paves the way to broader applications by invoking the prevention of crime (‘organised or otherwise’) as a reason for strengthening Europol, the embryonic European FBi (see more in this European encyclopedia). Although doubtless unlikely to survive as originally drafted, Corpus Juris is widely regarded in Brussels as the prototype of a future European criminal code.

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Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

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