Proceedings before German criminal courts are taking longer and longer.

According to data from the Federal Statistical Office, the average duration of first-instance criminal proceedings before the regional courts rose to a new high of 8.2 months last year, the German Association of Judges complained on Friday.

In a ten-year comparison, criminal proceedings before the regional courts would have been extended by almost 2 months.

In the district courts, too, the average length of proceedings up to a criminal judgment increased to 5.8 months last year.

Compared to 2020, this is a further increase of half a month.

"In view of the ever-increasing tasks for the judiciary, a turnaround can only succeed with more staff," summarized the federal manager of the German Association of Judges, Sven Rebehn.

The reasons also include the fact that criminal proceedings are becoming more and more complex, since international references are increasing, the complexity of the law is constantly increasing and the amount of data to be evaluated in the digital world has grown by leaps and bounds.

"Nine months after taking office, the federal government must finally put concrete proposals on the table on how it wants to shape the new version of the federal-state pact to strengthen the judiciary," demanded Rebehn.

Countries demand flexible disruption

In the countries, however, there are other plans.

Just last week, Lower Saxony spoke out in favor of a more flexible code of criminal procedure in order to be able to more easily interrupt criminal proceedings in the event of natural disasters or epidemics.

The state announced a Federal Council initiative to change the previously applicable interruption periods in such cases of force majeure, the Ministry of Justice in Hanover announced.

“The Code of Criminal Procedure is not adjusted to these uncertainties.

We therefore need a new, permanently applicable regulation in procedural law," said Lower Saxony's Justice Minister Barbara Havliza (CDU).

The code of criminal procedure only allows a comparatively short interruption of a main hearing of three weeks to one month in the event of illness or maternity leave, but not due to quarantine orders or force majeure.

Because of the corona pandemic, the legislator passed a regulation in March 2020 that court proceedings due to infection control measures may be interrupted for longer than usual.

This arrangement expired on June 30, 2022.

According to the current status, the regulation is only to be reinstated with the Corona package of measures in autumn 2022.

Several federal states - including Lower Saxony - consider it too late.

If the existing interruption periods are missed by just one day, the entire negotiation must be restarted.

This is not only frustrating for the courts and a burden for the victims, but also costs a lot of money, Havliza said.

In view of the increasing number of infections, the Ministers of Justice of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Brandenburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein are already calling for a successor regulation.