Sarkozy goes to war with Napoleon's legal legacy





President Nicolas Sarkozy will raise a political and legal storm today by pronouncing a death sentence on the "examining magistrates" who have been the linchpin of the French judicial system for two centuries.

In a speech to France's highest court, M. Sarkozy will call for the abolition of the juges d'instruction created by the Emperor Napoleon in 1808, magistrates with independent, sweeping powers to investigate serious crimes ranging from murder to political corruption.

Instead, all criminal investigations would be handed over to the parquet or public prosecution service, which would remain under the direct control of the government. Although the French system of "investigating magistrates" is frequently criticised as cumbersome and draconian, President Sarkozy's reform plans drew a barrage of protest yesterday from opposition politicians, lawyers and judges.

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