Why DETOUR?

The question “How to reduce pre-trial detention” is highly pertinent, because problems connected to the use of pre-trial detention concern both the rule of law and the humane treatment of suspects. They also touch upon a fundamental right of citizens of the European Union: the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of nationality. The question is also highly timely, because it falls in a period in which all EU Member States have to put the Framework Decision on the European Supervision Order (ESO) into practice.

Having received little attention from scholars for many years, it is now said that pre-trial detention in most parts of the world has developed in a way that aligns with policy trends indicating a harsh response to crime and those accused of it. In recent years, some comparative work has been done, usually with a focus on the human rights of suspects. In addition to the human rights focus, the approach of our study involves a scientific focus, integrating criminal law and criminology. We will collect and analyze qualitative data on the use of alternatives in the seven EU Member States by conducting observations and file analyses. These data provide the basis for further exploration with a strong focus on the stance of prosecutors and judges and how they assess the decision-making process in the pre-trial phase. We consider that the views, perceptions and experiences of the judiciary are crucial to the avoidance of pre-trial detention. We will therefore put special emphasis on their assessment of legal provisions, and the availability of alternatives, as well as problems and obstacles relevant for the avoidance of pre-trial detention. To broaden the picture, we will also include the perceptions and views of attorneys, as well as representatives of (third sector or state) organisations offering their services to avoid pre-trial detention. Their Descriptions of the landscapes they negotiate and the models of support provided will give additional insights into the structural conditions in the countries examined.

The groups of professionals named above will be the main participants and audience for the planned workshops, the final conference and the dissemination activities. The workshops will be both fora for the presentation of outcomes of the research and for discussions on the different national models of pre-trial detention and the diverse alternative measures observed and analyzed. All outputs of the project aim at an improved mutual knowledge and the sharing of up to date information with respect to cross-border activity and the implementation of the European Supervision Order. Understanding that goes beyond the mere technical aspects of how to operate this tool will also be crucial for mutual trust. Learning from successful models and examples in other European states equally serves as an important basis for developments towards avoiding pre-trial detention more systematically, and towards common European standards in this area.