Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann did not convince the German Association of Judges (DRB) with his compromise proposal to record the main hearing in criminal proceedings.

“Although video images should no longer be mandatory according to the latest plans, serious problems remain unresolved,” said DRB Federal Managing Director Sven Rebehn of the German Press Agency. Because even with sound recordings, there is a risk that recordings will find their way into the public domain, thereby exposing victims and endangering witnesses – for example in sensitive state security proceedings.

After criticism from judges and public prosecutors of his original proposal, Buschmann sent a new draft bill for the obligation to record the main hearing in criminal proceedings to the other departments of the federal government for approval two weeks ago. This no longer provides for the originally planned video recording. In addition, the judicial authorities of the countries should have more time than originally planned to procure the technology for sound recording and transcription. The FDP politician is sticking to the core of his project. Buschmann emphasized that the fact that those involved in the proceedings had to rely solely on their notes and memory after a process that had sometimes lasted for months was not up to date.

“Evidence on Evidence”

The first draft presented by Buschmann in November for a “law on the digital documentation of the main criminal hearing” still provided for the main hearing to be recorded in future in image and sound form and for the sound recording to be converted into a text document using transcription software.

However, the judges’ association fears that the project could also lead to longer proceedings in the new version, “if the courts have to deal with a kind of “taking of evidence about the taking of evidence” based on the records in the proceedings in the future.” If the draft were to be implemented in its current form, the result would also be a considerable increase in technical and personnel costs for the courts, which would not be offset by any recognizable benefit for finding the truth, said Rebehn.

In the coming years, the federal and state governments should concentrate better on the nationwide switch to electronic files and the smooth digital exchange of information between the judiciary and the authorities, lawyers and citizens.