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Menu for Justice - Toward a European Curriculum Studiorum on Judicial Studies

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News: Menu For Justice Newsletter 7/2/2012


Menu For Justice Newsletter 7/2/2012 


I. Menu for Justice: The Project

A common legal framework and a convergent judicial culture represent one of the pillars on which the European integration process has been established. Today more than ever, understanding and maintenance of the pace and direction of European integration needs to rely on a common language with which European citizens and policy makers can develop a dialogue that bridges domestic and cultural differences.

Menu for Justice is the first European project that takes seriously the issue of how the new generation of Europeans should be trained in law and legal matters and how experts in law and the judicial process can develop new skills and competences to effectively face the challenges of a common judicial space. By devoting three years to joint working among fifty partners in Europe, this project aims to assess the key gaps in legal and judicial education in all European countries at all stages of education: from undergraduate to graduate and PhD programs in universities to vocational training of lawyers and judges. By assessing the “state of the art” of education for law students, lawyers and judges in Europe, Menu for Justice aims to provide vital information to policy makers considering the development of an innovative curriculum studiorum in judicial studies. It will also provide European institutions and the public with basic guidelines for monitoring the way legal and judicial training are changing in Europe.

II. Menu for Justice: Aims

MFJ aims to offer an overview of the regulatory and practical barriers European countries are confronting when it comes to the reform of legal and judicial training programs. The project aims to conduct a critical review of the contents of training. Legal scholars and judicial actors will be particularly affected by choices concerning what to learn and how to teach. We intend to map out the possible contents of a curriculum studiorum in judicial and legal studies, to be used to compliment existing programs of legal and judicial training in European countries.

III. The Newsletter

Menu For Justice will be presenting its activities and partners by e-mail posting. Please indicate friends and colleagues, who will like to be informed of our project. We would be grateful to all the receivers if they would send us the mail addresses of individual and institutions, which may be interested to receive our newsletter. You may send the names to the responsible for the redaction, Prof. Pasquale Policastro, e-mail: or the technical assistant Ms. Paula Fernando  

IV. Presentation of the Members of Menu for Justice
In this section Menu for Justice will be presenting its Members.

Today we present:

Institute of Criminology University of Malta, Rm 113 Block A New Humanities Bld, Msida MSD 2080 Malta Tel: (+356) 2340 2771, Fax: (+356) 2134 6016

1. The Institute of Criminology started the academic year (2008/9) as "Institute of Forensic Studies" – its title since 1993, when it was established. It was set up with the aim of serving as a resource centre of experts and expertise for the Maltese criminal justice system.

The Institute is involved in research and teaching in the field of Criminology: policing, corrections, terrorism, geo-spatial analysis of crime, psychology/psychiatry/biology of crime, criminological research methods, cyber crime, criminal investigation, crime/criminal profiling, domestic violence, hate crimes and other crime-related areas of study. It also acts as a resource centre for the provision of experts and expertise in the various fields of its activity to the Courts of Justice and the Probation Services. Furthermore, it acts as an advisory body to the Government on matters pertaining to criminal justice.

Besides carrying out a series of courses, the Institute is also involved in a number of EU-funded research projects. In addition, the Institute provides consultancy to the Ministry for Home Affairs and Justice and is represented on the Police Academy Board.

Internationally, it has representatives in Eurojust and Cepol.
Web address:
The institute is involved in the work of Task Force 1 in the MFJ project.
Contact person: Dr Sandra Scicluna, Position: Senior Lecturer, e-mail:

The Centre for Social Studies (CES) University of Coimbra, founded in 1978, is a scientific institution devoted to research and advanced training in the area of the social sciences and humanities. CES now numbers 124 researchers, 48 associate researchers and 53 junior researchers. Many of these researchers work on a full time basis at the Centre. Remaining members combine research with lecturing (the vast majority at the Facultis of Economics, Humanities and Science and Technology) or with other professional activities. The team includes sociologists, economists, jurists, anthropologists, historians, specialists in the areas of education, literature, culture and international relations, geographers, architects, and biologists among others.

Over the past years, CES has seen its scientific activity expand to a significant degree. This can be noted in its increased number of researchers, in its academic progression, in the growth of research projects, in the broadening of international cooperation networks, in activities carried out in cooperation with the outside sphere and in the vitality of its main instruments for scientific dissemination.

The research projects and international scientific networks in which its researchers have participated over the past decade confirm the dynamism of the Centre, which, in 1997 and in 1999, and more recently in 2005 and 2010, received recognition of its scientific merit when it was evaluated as Excellent (the highest classification) by an international panel, within the framework of the Evaluation Process for Research Units of the Ministry for Science. In 2002, CES was awarded the status of Associate Laboratory by the Ministry for Science, on the basis of two central premises: firstly, its proven ability to develop innovative research on Portuguese society in its different aspects, as well as on current transformations at the international level, with special emphasis on semi-peripheric societies and those of the Southern hemisphere, especially the Portuguese-speaking countries; secondly, the Centre’s involvement in issues of public interest, notably public policies and the new forms of regulation, the relation between scientific knowledge and citizen participation, and the legal system and the reform of the administering of justice.

Contact persons:
João Paulo Dias - - Researcher and Executive-Director of CES;
Conceição Gomes - - Researcher and Executive-Coordinator of the Observatory of Portuguese Justice of CES.

V. Menu for Justice Bulletin

In this section we will present commentary to cases, which the Members of MFJ partners have been selecting in relation to their importance for: a) the development a substantive training of magistrates and members of the other legal profession; b) joining a good selection and training of magistrates, of the lawyers and of other legal profession with a good functioning of the courts; c) a grwing attention to procedural guarantees

Today we present:

Bulletin MfJ 1/2012
The murder of Avetrana and the media resonance of justice

By Pasquale Policastro
The recent events which took place in Italy, where, in a little village in Puglia, the murder of a young girl, and the suspect fell on the family of the cousin of the victim, reinforced by a confession of the father of such cousin, finally retracted in a growingly difficult series of events, which led to the arrest of the cousin herself, and her mother. have been giving rise to a true media trial. This is not the first time that in the recent times, crimes generate an abnormal interest of the press and of the media. For this reason, the participation of the public opinion becomes not the reflex of the interest of all the citizen to the correct administration of justice, but becomes a partisan activity. The society becomes in some cases divided into two, the one who deem the accused to be guilty, the other innocent. In other cases, the society becomes a more or less amorphous crowd which follows the opinion maker of the day, and his payed advisers. The media reflex of a trial poses in the society of communication significant problems, since the trial ought to be celebrated with the highest guarantees for the defense, and a sure and certain impartiality of the court. However, the media involvement in the trial constitutes a pressure for the judge and the prosecutor, which may not be taken lightly. Such pressure is augmented in its potential effect when the career of the magistrates is not strongly linked to technical and knowledge parameters, but to other criteria, which are from one side softer and uncertain, and from the other more difficult to be objectively determined. The pressure coming from the media may have to this respect, disastrous effect. May lead indeed to the spasmodic search of a quick solution, and therefore to the formation of a “theorem” of accusation set a priori. Such a theorem, whenever reasonable, under the pressure of the media, may easily be acknowledged as being “beyond any reasonable doubt”. We may not forget that the magistrate, is however, living in his time.

Coming back to the murder of Avetrana, it does not surprise us us that the defendants filed a request for the trial to be suspended in front of the natural judge and remitted elsewhere. The request was motivated saying that: “ The abnormal interest of the medias, that grew around the trial, led to a heavy conditioning as well as to a heavy disturbance of the activity of prosecution and jurisdiction for the Court of Taranto, of such and intensity and immanence, not to permit its eradication otherwise then remitting the trial to another court”. In particular, among many other things, it was observed that the secrecy of the investigation was vanished due to the media interesest to such an extent, that investigation acts became known to the public opinion almost simultaneously to the moment, in which the said acts where performed. And such a media interesest was one of the reasons, that lead to an enormous explosion of local discontent and anger, which was addressed to the family suspected of having committed the crime. Such anger was manifest also with public demonstrations, which took place with the presence of key wits in the case.

The Italian Court of cassation (1st criminal section), which was invested by the case, deemed unjustified to remit the case, with a decision, which we may consider reasonable, but that however, is not free from the danger of “strange loops”. However, the decision of the Supreme court some remarks, that, although designed to justify the decision, pose some problems that may be important to acknowledge, when thinking of further reforms. The reasonableness of the decision stays upon the fact that in the case of the murder of Avetrana trial, lies on the fact that there may not be envisaged a grave local situation, external to the trial and concerning the local environment, which is so heavy and abnormal to be seen as a true danger for the judge’ s impartiality (p. 3 as of right). According with art. 45 c.p,p. (Criminal Proceeding Act as modified by art. 1 l. 7 nov. 2002), requires indeed that such local situation may cause prejudice to the free determination of the people participating to the trial, to the public order and security, as well as a legitimate suspicion, based therefore on motives which are real and objective.

The Court shows however, that there is “no heavy national situation”  since the exceptional media interest “has a national relevance”. And this notwithstanding that such “national interest”, as the Court point out, “went in some occasions beyond the requirement of a due information on an indisputably grave fact, giving rise even to virtual trials parallel to the legitimate one, which was taking place in the sole appropriate place. Such fact fed a morbid and exasperated attention, mortified the principle of equal dignity of each person, which is solemnized by art. 2 of Italian Constitution.

The “strange loop” of the Cassation court reasoning is produced by its ambiguity. Indeed we may reason “a fortiori”, saying that ‘since there is a heavy national situation, then it is more then evident that there is also a heavy local situation” and we may reason by “exclusion of the opposite”, saying “since there is a general situation, which is heavy, which manifests at a local level, we may not say that there is a heavy local situation”. The second reasoning may appear worse then the first. However, the Cassation court justifies its use by affirming that, to remit a trial to another court is an exceptional measure, and therefore shall be applied in a stringent way. This argument may still be considered unsatisfactory, since we may say that it lack the reference term: it shall indeed applied in a stringent way to protect the individual right to a fair trial (strict scrutiny), or it shall be applied in a stringent way to respect the objective legal order? (restricting the area of application).

However the Supreme court adopted another argument, and namely that the interest of the parties to a fair trial may not balance out the principle of the “natural judge”, which is the backbone of the  fair trial in the Italian Constitution. Such argument appears included only implicitly in the reasoning. Adopting such an argument the Court may have said: if we would derogate from the principle of the “natural judge” in this case due to the media pressure, since in many cases we have an undue media pressure with respect to the trials, then, we may distort such a basic constitutional principle by acknowledging the interest of the parties to derogate from the local jurisdiction - and identifying it with the general interest to a better administration of the justice.

We may ask ourselves then, in which way, we may grant a better administration of the justice due to the frequent invasion in the sphere of the trial of the media? The question should be seen in different perspective:
1)  A system of development of the career of the magistrate, both prosecuting and judging, basing on technical requirements, eventually relying on competitive exams;
2)  A development of a new legal profession, related with the administration of the court, that is the court press agent. Such a profession is appearing with success in many courts where a clear communication with the press is needed. The experience of the Dutch press judge and of the press office of some Central European Constitutional Courts appears to be a good example;
3)  To encourage the development of deontological practices in the relations between the press and the Courts.



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Content Type: News (Menu for Justice)
Created at 2/10/2012 10:26 AM  by Vittorio Marino 
Last modified at 2/21/2012 12:22 PM  by Vittorio Marino