The Author Peter Briody about Himself
I was born in the Republic of Ireland in 1941. As relevant experience in the fields of justice and administration, I can quote 20 years experience as an Officer of the Royal Air Force.
According to needs, I officiated during my service time on boards of inquiry, for which it was necessary to collect, evaluate evidence and come to a conclusion. It was a cardinal requirement when investigating e.g. an aircraft accident to do this systematically. To help us with the task, we had fixed procedures and guidelines. If these were followed and the evidence painstakingly gathered, the inquiry would generally be successful, at the first attempt. The procedures for an aircraft accident were not substantially different to those for e. g. a suicide or the loss of valuable property or documents. The intricacy would roughly determine the time taken for the inquiry. The methods used would vary, but never the procedures.
As a fight commander, I had a great deal to do with the conduct of disciplinary hearings as a subordinate commander. These could have been anything from a relatively harmless disciplinary matter to a serious crime, which then went to a court martial.
I studied Air Force Law at the cadet academy which was of about 3 1/2 years duration and later completed my studies as an officer under instruction at courts martial. Later I served as a member of the board ( judge ) of alternatively as the defending officer. We used to say that it is “more blessed to judge than to defend” because a judge did not have to prepare a defence, which could mean weeks of painstaking work. In the “squeaky” clean procedures of a court martial the judges were not allowed to see files and had to declare that they did not know the accused.
It is not possible to compare a court martial with a hearing before a civilian court in Germany. For a start every court martial has to be convened separately by order of an Air Officer Commanding, which implies a relatively low workload. The civilian courts in Germany work on a cyclic, repetitive basis, as do other civilian courts in other countries. The temporary nature of military courts means that there are very few permanent judges, but about 30-40 prosecutors who are made available by the Ministry of Defence. Also each court martial is provided with a judge advocate, who advises but does not take any part in the decision making. The judges and defending officers are usually all normal serving officers, who, like myself, have a legal training as well as the requisite period under instruction.
At the end of 1992 I had begun to study the German Justice System. Appalled by the fundamental asymmetry of procedure, the lack of professionalism of German Judiciaries as well as the lack of integrity of the system, I looked for ways of tackling the problem. It is no use arguing with German judiciaries, because when they are cornered they just come out with pseudo-judicial verisimilitude (PJV) and all their colleagues nod in agreement. The “wronger” they are, the “righter” they are – and nobody is “righter” than a German judiciary. To counter this mentality, I decided to pick out parameters, which were not based very much on German law paragraphs but on the formalities of procedure. This drastically reduces the opportunities for arguing with PJV and can lead to an irrefutable indictment of the professional quality of German judiciaries.
The problem German prosecutors is quite different to that of judges. The first part is the standard of investigation files. For this reason there is an assessment form ( F5010H ) for prosecution files on the internet - which is also connected to a database. The second part is tied up with the courts: It is the presentation of evidence to the courts, either as charge sheets or as summary penalties. The concept for the assessment of the introduction of evidence is still under development.
As far as the necessary assessments of judicial professional standards in Germany is concerned, a major break-through has been achieved with F2010P, NGO evaluation form for expert evidence reports. These are the interface documents – and, at the same time, the most important alibi - of the Youth Welfare Service, the experts and the family courts. They have been exposed on all fronts as mostly junk. The courts and sometimes the Youth Welfare Offices are additionally assessed as the “tasking authority” using the same form. ( A City Authority is also using the form: There may be other users ). There is also a human rights database (F4020H), from which we will be producing statistics shortly. Still under development is F7010H for the assessment of court judgements ( that will be something akin to the PISA study. ).
In defining what is wrong with German justice, I use the starting point 1924 when the Justice System was reformed. The major item in this reformation was the abolition of the jury system. This might have been the right decision for Germany, however, the necessary reform of the rules of procedure, partly due to the abolition of juries, was not thought through sufficiently. The rules, as they stand now, throw every German courtroom into chaos.
Sometimes I have the doubtful pleasure of having to sit through a court hearing in Germany, through which I am reminded of the Christmas shows of my student days. We would parody court procedures by doing everything wrong in the most comic way possible. Whilst in those days it was good to laugh at the expense of serious things, we have the same kind of “Muppet Shows” today in Germany – for real. Each time I go through a metamorphosis like the “Cheshire Cat” in “Alice in Wonderland”: First comes the smile, which turns to pity, finally everything disappears and there is only the scorn.