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Hierarchy, Bureaucracy, and Ideology in French Criminal Justice: Some Empirical Observations

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Using observational and interview data from my own empirical study of the investigation and prosecution of crime in France, this article examines critically the extent to which three features generally considered central to inquisitorial procedure – hierarchy, bureaucracy, and ideology – exist within the structures and procedures of the French criminal process and the constraining impact they have upon the decision-making of the procureur, the judicial officer responsible for supervising the majority of criminal investigations. A broad degree of discretion is found to exist at the local and individual level and the unavailability of resources further increases disparities in practice. Nevertheless, the conventional ‘ideals’ retain a continuing force and relevance for procureurs, who describe their work (both as they understand it to be and as they would wish it to be) in these terms and whose crime control orientation is shielded by redefining it in terms of ‘representing the public interest’.

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: School of Law, University of Warwick, Coventry

Publication date: June 1, 2002


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