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Justice system study Lack of information tarnishes courts’ image

A courtroom in Geneva. The study showed that 44% of people in canton Geneva had had personal experience with the court system, while in Zurich it was just 14%

(Keystone)

A new study shows that despite a high level of trust among the public, Switzerland’s justice system has an image problem tied to a lack of available information.

According to political researcher Christoph Schwenkel, who helped conduct the study, overwhelmingly negative media coverage about court proceedings leads to a more negative image of the justice system among the public. He spoke with the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on Saturday, before the study was released.

“When you read about a cantonal court in the newspaper, it’s often about controversial criminal cases,” Schwenkel said. “Whereas participants in the case and politicians often don’t mince words in criticising the system, justice authorities limit their communication to a minimum.”

The study, which is the first of its kind to have been carried out across Switzerland, surveyed 3,484 people across the country about their perceptions of the justice system. On a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 representing full trust, participants were asked to rate their level of confidence in the justice system. Overall, the trust level in Switzerland stood at 7. 

However, 60% of the public said they felt badly or very badly informed about the justice system. 

"Courts should actively inform about their work, with professional media relations and crisis communications," Schwenkel said. 

He added that negative perceptions of the justice system can be minimised by strengthening courts’ image as a public service and by highlighting positive experiences with the court system. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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