The Belgian Case: Phenix or How to Design E Justice Through Privacy Requirements and in Full Respect of the Separation of Powers

The Belgian Case: Phenix or How to Design E Justice Through Privacy Requirements and in Full Respect of the Separation of Powers

Yves Poullet (University of Namur, Belgium)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-998-4.ch012
OnDemand PDF Download:


This chapter examines the ambitious Phenix project, a global project for the whole computerization of all Courts and Tribunals in Belgium, with the use of ICT by all stakeholders. It focuses especially on the legislative measures that have been taken, mainly in relation to data protection and legal value of the documents generated by the use of the electronic procedure.
Chapter Preview


Phenix is the brand name of a project which aims to introduce ICT at all the steps of the judicial procedure in Belgium, no matter the affair engaged in: criminal,1 civil, commercial, and so forth. In other words, Phenix is a global project for the whole computerization of all courts and tribunals in Belgium. Since the introduction of the dossier until its notification, Phenix aimed to have the actors involved in these different phases: the lawyers, the magistrates, the registrars, the public prosecutors, and the process servers use the technologies in a secure and efficient way. This very ambitious project has been approved by two legislative acts. The first one, the “Phenix Act,” was enacted on August 10, 2005.2 It institutes the information system called “Phenix,” describes its mission, and sets up different organs in order to regulate the system. What is more noticeable in that legislation is the importance given by the legislator to apply and follow strictly the data protection principles in order to build up the Phenix Information System. The second act “relative to the judicial procedure by electronic way” dates from July 10, 20063 and aims to modify certain provisions into the Civil and Penal Procedural Code in order to give legal value to the documents generated by the use of the electronic procedure settled up by the Phenix Information System. Our short contribution will analyze these two facets of this legislative input.

Before starting, perhaps a few words about the origin4 and the present situation of the Phenix Belgian model would be needed. Apart from 1990, certain initiatives were taken in Belgium, but these initiatives were local and not sufficiently coordinated. They were focusing on the internal use by tribunals of computers and the development of certain software aiming to support the tribunal members’ work. The concept of a global “e-justice” project has been launched by the previous government in 2000, on the basis of the studies realized by a large consortium,5 joining together all the stakeholders, and a call for tender has been issued in 2001. Three main concerns explain the launching of a global and strongly centralized project: (1) the development of the Internet which creates an opportunity but also an absolute need to integrate the different databases; (2) the obligation to avoid all the problems raised by the incompatibility between the material used at the different levels; and (3) the idea that such a centralized project will diminish at midterm the costs of the functioning of the tribunals. Several technical working groups6 have been settled up in order to elaborate and formulate the needed recommendations to address to the legislator, to the furnisher chosen, and definitively to the different actors involved by this revolution. The first concrete works have started in 2002; two acts have been promulgated in order to fix the legal context of the Phenix project, and no less than 18 royal decrees have to be drafted.

Notwithstanding all the efforts of all the actors and the budget afforded to ensure the success of the project, recently in March 2007, the present Ministry of Justice has announced the Phenix project’s failure and the obligation to stop the works initiated. It seems that this failure is due to the difficulties met by the supplier to solve complex technical problems. A litigation is in course before a Belgian court between the state and its furnisher. The next government, which will be formed after the next elections in June, will have to decide which follow-up will be given to the project. From this bad Belgian experience, a first conclusion must be drawn: even if we need to have a global project in order to structure all the developments, it is absolutely needed to start with local and dedicated experiences in order to learn apart from these partial experiences how to adapt continuously these developments and to solve the concrete difficulties met at any stages. Another benefit of this experimental approach is also to progressively convince all the stakeholders (the magistrates, the registrars, the process servers, the lawyers, and, finally, the citizens) of the benefits of the project and to hear from them their expectations about such a project. Too much reluctance has been met from different groups, shocked by this managerial revolution imposed without real consultation.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Table of Contents
Agustí Cerrillo i Martínez, Pere Fabra i Abat
Chapter 1
Marco Fabri
The European Union (EU) is an extraordinary laboratory of innovation and change, particularly in the justice sector. The diversity of environments... Sample PDF
The Italian Style of E-Justice in a Comparative Perspective
Chapter 2
Davide Carnevali
In spite of the technological, economic, and normative efforts, all democratic countries are developing electronic filing (e-filing) in the justice... Sample PDF
E-Justice and Policies for Risk Management
Chapter 3
Marta Poblet, Joan-Josep Vallbé, Núria Casellas, Pompeu Casanovas
Judicial culture generally refers to the set of values, cognitive skills, and practical knowledge of members of the judiciary. In this chapter, we... Sample PDF
Judges as IT Users: The Iuriservice Example
Chapter 4
James E. McMillan
Automated court case management systems present opportunities to develop processes and procedures that can battle corruption. This chapter provides... Sample PDF
The Potential of Computerized Court Case Management to Battle Judicial Corruption
Chapter 5
Michael Adler, Paul Henman
This chapter considers the implications of computerisation for procedural justice in social security. It outlines an approach to the analysis of... Sample PDF
Justice Beyond the Courts: The Implications of Computerisation for Procedural Justice in Social Security
Chapter 6
Melissa H. Conley Tyler
Every community—whether physical or virtual will inevitably experience conflict. New ways of interacting through information and communication... Sample PDF
Online Dispute Resolution
Chapter 7
E-Justice in Spain  (pages 98-116)
Agustí Cerrillo I Martínez
Administration of justice is adding information and communication technologies in its internal operations and its relations both with judicial... Sample PDF
E-Justice in Spain
Chapter 8
Francesco Contini, Antonio Cordella
The Italian judiciary is characterised by a weak system of governance, consequence of institutional and cultural factors. In this framework, the... Sample PDF
Italian Justice System and ICT: Matches and Mismatches Between Technology and Organisation1
Chapter 9
Roberto Fragale Filho, Alexandre Veronese
It has become commonplace to talk about a silent revolution in the Brazilian Judiciary for which the widespread use of ICT has been of great impact.... Sample PDF
Electronic Justice in Brazil
Chapter 10
J. William Holland
This chapter outlines the history of digital government in criminal justice, starting with the Johnson Administration’s findings concerning... Sample PDF
Digital Government and Criminal Justice
Chapter 11
Sandra Potter, Phil Farrelly, Derek Begg
This chapter tracks the response of Australian courts to rapid advances in ICT. It shows how, despite early resistance and a reactive approach to... Sample PDF
The E-Court Roadmap: Innovation and Integration An Australian Case Study
Chapter 12
Yves Poullet
This chapter examines the ambitious Phenix project, a global project for the whole computerization of all Courts and Tribunals in Belgium, with the... Sample PDF
The Belgian Case: Phenix or How to Design E Justice Through Privacy Requirements and in Full Respect of the Separation of Powers
Chapter 13
Alexei Trochev
When the Internet reached Russia in the mid- 1990s, Russian judicial chiefs actively embraced the idea of having a solid presence of national... Sample PDF
Courts on the Web in Russia
Chapter 14
Anne Wallace
A 1999 Australian report on the prospective impact of information and communications technology on the justice system presented a vision of how... Sample PDF
E-Justice: An Australian Perspective
About the Contributors