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Security and Liberty decision, Decision no. 80-127 DC, Constitutional Council, January 19 & 20, 1981 (publication: Recueil n° 15)

Facts: one provision of a new law provided that the Procureur de la République would have the choice between sending a case to the investigating magistrate or directly to the chambre d'accusation (criminal procedure provision). Another provision provided for a lessening of penalties to be imposed for certain offences, but this was only to apply to offences committed after the legislation came into force.

Issue: the law was challenged on the ground that it would provide different rule of criminal procedure and penalties and result in differences between criminals were discriminatory.

Holding: the Constitutional Council upheld the criminal procedure provision. The lessening of penalties provision was struck down.

Reasoning: pursuant to Article 7 of the Declaration of 1789 and Article 34 of the Constitution, the rules of criminal procedure were fixed by the law but he legislator was permitted to provide different rules of criminal procedure according to the facts, situations and persons to whom they apply, provided that the differences did not result from unjustified discrimination and that equal guarantees for the accused were observed. Therefore the criminal procedure provision was constitutional. The Council struck down the lessening of penalties provision because equal treatment required that the lighter sentences should be applied to all cases judged after the law came into force.


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