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The official statistics on criminal proceedings in Germany show the increase in the number of criminal proceedings, however, m most cases, no increase in their length The greater number of criminal proceedings mainly concern local courts, i.e. cases of petty and minor offences. The German law of criminal procedure offers several possibilities for the dismissal of criminal cases, which are frequently used by public prosecutors and courts. Thus the average length of criminal proceedings could be preserved constant in recent years As regards the proceedings in regional courts i.e. cases of grave offences, the average length of proceedings in Germany is approximately six months. A more detailed analysis reveals, however, very different periods of time. In particular cases the proceedings are very long, which puts heavy burden on the court. The factors important for the length of the proceedings are, most of all, the type of the offence, the extent and complexity of the proceedings, special problems concerning the proceedings and the actions of the defence. In comparison with other countries, the proceedings in Germany are not excessively long
In this report, different positive legal principles of the obligation to expedite criminal proceedings are looked at. As regards the international law, special emphasis is put on the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Due to the extensive adjudication of the European Court Of Human Rights, the obligation to expedite criminal proceedings according in Art, 6 § 1 of the ECHR has significantly taken shape. The question whether criminal proceedings are too long and thus violate the rights of a person charged seems to be cleared lo large extent. German courts are also concerned about lengthy proceedings. The Federal Constitutional Court acknowledges that the constitutional embodiment of the right to a decision within a due period of time is comprised in the right of personal liberty (Art. 2 of the German Constitution) in relation to the principle of the due course of law. The Federal High Court of lustice applies directly Art. 6 § 1 of the ECHR which in Germany has the same status as German regulations. In German jurisprudence the legal consequences of the excessively long criminal proceedings are in the foreground. The extra long proceedings can only in rare exceptional cases be regarded as an obstacle in the proceedings and, as a rule, the consequence is the mitigation of the penalty. The second part of this report deals with the particular provision of the German Code of Criminal Procedure in regard to the obligation to expedite proceedings. There is no explicit positive legal obligation to expedite the proceedings in the code, but many separate provisions affect positively the conclusion of proceedings in due time.
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