Criminal Courts and Specialization: The German Experience

Hans-Jorg Albrecht, Max Planck Institute

Differentiation of criminal courts along particular problem areas is not a new phenomenon. Seen from a historical perspective specialized criminal courts dealing with particular crime problems emerged long time ago in the forms of military courts and political crime courts. Some 40 years ago a new specialization era started when economic crime became a priority crime policy issue and criminal traffic offences developed into a mass phenomenon in industrialized countries. From the eighties on some systems introduced special courts for terrorist crime, drugs and domestic violence. Corresponding processes of differentiation can be observed on the side of police and prosecution services. In Germany, however, specialization was restricted to the establishment of economic crime courts some thirty years ago. Drug courts and domestic violence courts have never been political issues although stragies of 'problem solving' have been implemented with respect to drugs, drug addiction and domestic violence similar to those adopted in systems where drug courts and domestic violence courts have been established. The paper will discuss socio-legal issues related to judicial specialization as well as possible explanations for the apparent differences in responding to various social problems by way of establishing specialized judicial bodies.

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Updated 05/20/2006