Alternative pre-tial detention measures

According to estimates based on Council of Europe data, around 350,000 people were in pre-trial detention in one of the member states early in 2019. It is a generally recognized principle that pre-trial detention should be an ultima ratio, i.e. the exception that only applies if measures to secure the proceedings and to avoid (further) criminal offenses are absolutely necessary and if less intrusive alternatives are not considered sufficient. The high number of pretrial detainees justifies doubts about a consistent and adequate implementation of the ultima ratio principle. It however has to be noted that in the practice of pretrial detention and of alternatives to it respectively, large differences can be observed between the countries. The practice of pre-trial detention is a sensitive topic, as it is about the tension between effective criminal prosecution and security on the one hand and the most massive encroachment in the personal rights of people for whom the presumption of innocence applies, namely the deprivation of liberty on the other. International studies indicate a widespread preference among decision-makers for pre-trial detention and indicate a low use of alternatives in many countries. Additionally in many countries the situation is worsened by a high proportion of foreigners among the prisoners on remand.

The project "PRETRIAD - Alternative pre-tial detention measures" builds on the findings of previous research projects on pre-trial detention, such as DETOUR. At the center of this project are the alternatives to pre-trial detention and the question of why alternatives are rarely used in many places or how an increased use can supported. The European Union has repeatedly emphasized the importance of an increased use of alternatives to detention. With the European Supervission Order (ESO), it has developed an instrument that is intended to support the use of alternatives in other EU member states and with their citizens respectively. PRETRIAD is looking into the question of how the still very little use of the ESO can be improved. A central concern of PRETRIAD is to get in touch with practitioners in many countries, especially with judges and public prosecutors. On the one hand, they are the central target group of interviews to be carried out in a total of 14 EU countries. The interviews will survey their view of pre-trial detention practice and of the use of alternatives, their perception of problems and possible solutions. On the other hand, a number of events in the partner countries particularly adress this target group. In the end, it is a central aim to promote a deeper awareness of the problems associated with pre-trial detention and of the ultima ratio principle. In addition, it is intended to support the application of the ESO, the development of common standards for pre-trial detention in the member states, mutual trust and cross-border cooperation.


Project Partners

Bremen Senate of Justice and Constitution, Bremen, Germany (Coordination)

Quality Just – IT Solutions and Consulting (IPS), Portugal

Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology (IRKS), Wien

Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), Bulgarya

Fondazione Agenfor International (AGENFOR), Italy

European Strategies Consulting SRL (Consultancy), Romania


Funded by

European Commission Directorate-General Justice and Consumers 

Co-financed by


Project Website 

Project Period

April 2020 to March 2022

Project Leader

Walter Hammerschick

Executive Director