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 PRETRIAD - Alternative pre-trial detention measures


According to estimates based on Council of Europe data, around 350,000 people were in pre-trial detention in one of the member states in early 2019. It is a generally recognized principle that pre-trial detention should be an ultima ratio, i.e., the exception that only applies if measures to secure the proceedings and to avoid (further) criminal offenses are absolutely necessary, and if less intrusive alternatives are not considered sufficient. However, the high number of pre-trial detainees justifies doubts as to whether the ultima ratio principle is consistently and adequately implemented. In addition, it must be noted that practices of pre-trial detention and the alternatives to it respectively vary greatly among the countries in question. The practice of pre-trial detention is a sensitive topic, as it concerns the tension between effective criminal prosecution and security, on the one hand, and the biggest possible encroachment on the personal rights of people for whom the presumption of innocence applies, namely the deprivation of liberty, on the other. International studies indicate a widespread preference among decision-makers for pre-trial detention and a low number of cases in which alternatives were used in many countries. Additionally, in many countries the situation is worsened by a high proportion of foreigners among the prisoners on remand. The project "PRETRIAD - Alternative pre-trial detention measures" builds on the findings of previous research projects on pre-trial detention, such as DETOUR. This project focuses on the alternatives to pre-trial detention, the question of why alternatives are rarely used in many places, and on how an increased use could be supportive. The European Union has repeatedly emphasized the importance of an increased use of alternatives to detention. By passing the European Supervision Order (ESO), it has developed an instrument that shall support the use of alternatives in other EU member states and be beneficial to their citizens respectively. PRETRIAD is looking into how the still very low number of usages of the ESO can be increased. A central concern of PRETRIAD is to get in touch with practitioners in many countries, especially with judges and public prosecutors. On the one hand, they are the central target group for the interviews that are to be carried out in a total of 14 EU countries. The interviews will survey their view of the pre-trial detention practice and the use of alternatives, as well as their perception of problems and possible solutions. On the other hand, a number of events in the partner countries will particularly address this target group. In the end, the main goal is to promote a deeper awareness of the problems associated with pre-trial detention and of the ultima ratio principle. In addition, the intention is to support the application of the ESO, the development of common standards for pre-trial detention in the member states, mutual trust and cross-border cooperation.


Project Partners 

Funded by

European Commission Directorate-General Justice and Consumers 



Project Manager

Foto: Walter Hammerschick

Walter Hammerschick

Project Reports 

  D2.1 Literature review: Legislative analysis and pre-trial detention impacts

  D2.2 Pre-trial detention alternatives: Best practices

  D2.4 Interviews report

  D3.1 Recommendation paper on pre-trial detention national application

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