The medieval inquisition in the 12th century began the reforms in criminal procedures, with Pope Innocent III in 1198 issuing a series of decrees that transformed the judiciary system. With the introduction of new inquisitional processes, the magistrates of those times no longer required formal accusations to summon witnesses for interrogations for the trial of defendants with secretive testimonies of witnesses also being admissible in the criminal procedures.
This form of judicial undertakings were considered as the Medieval category with the clergy being forbade to conducts trials through ordeals and combats, resulting in this methods becoming an acceptable and domineering system of those times in France and overall in parts of continental Europe. The major developments towards the modernized criminal procedures system began in the 19th century leading to the current levels with limitations to the powers of the investigators and increased rights of the defendants.
The Code civil des Francais, which in English translates as the Napolneonic Code was established and enforced in the March of 1804 on its 21st day as the French Civil Code and is considered amongst the first successful codification system of the legal system and they also influenced the development of similar laws in various other countries. With its clarity and easy accessibility, the law impact helped to set up proper rule of law.
Based on existing French and Roman law, it followed the “Justinian’s Corpus Juris Civils” system for implementing civil law for personal status, property and acquisition of property with the intent of reforming the French legal system in accord with the French Revolution and avoiding feudal and royalty laws deemed contrary to people’s interests. The French law also gives detainees the right to appeal as stated in Article 503 of the Code of Criminal procedure: “Article 503 Where the appellant is detained, the appeal may be filed by means of a statement made to the prison governor.
This statement is recorded, dated and signed by the prison governor. It is also signed by the appellant. If the latter cannot sign, this is noted by the prison governor. This original document or a copy of it is sent forthwith to the court office of the court which made the contested decision. It is transcribed into the register provided for by the third paragraph of article 502 and attached to the instrument drafted by the clerk. ” (See Appendix A) Prior to the introduction of the Code system, laws depended on old local customs with selective exemptions, privileges and personalized special charters by the kings, lords and the powerful.
The French Revolution abolished these feudal vestiges and the different legal systems working in different parts of France so that they would all came under the umbrella of a unified single code system. It was during the Napolean era that France began to stabilize after experiencing unrestful and turmoil filled periods of war to be able to project itself in a purposeful and serene manner. Some of the ancient parliamentarian based laws practiced in France tended to be enforced through the legislative roles the judges adapted to protest against the excesses and the royal decision that clashed with their privileges particular class of society.
This resulted in the French Revolution taking a negative view of these practices and recommending drastic changes in the laws. The Napoleonic Code therefore curtailed the roles of judges to only pass judgment on matters within the domain of the law and legislation and the judiciary system. The judges were also prohibited from assuming authority whereby they could enact any new judicial laws like they had done in the past. However, existing gaps in the laws, rules and regulations had to be prescribed to, and as there were no set binding precedents, the decisions by courts in some cases were considered more or less equivalent as “case laws”.