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05 June 2012

Five questions to Stefano Maffei, Coordinator of the FIDUCIA project

This FP7 project is called "FIDUCIA": where does this name come from?
Choosing the project name was a difficult process. I suppose what we were looking for was an immediate and clear reference to the impact that an effective criminal policy could have on the "trust" that people have in institutions like the courts and the police. Fiducia is the Latin term for "trust," and referencing a Latin term also serves as a tribute to the common social and cultural heritage of Europe. Consortium members also wanted to incorporate a sense of continuity with the EURO-JUSTIS project, which produced new scientific indicators of public confidence in justice.

Europe is experiencing significant tensions at the moment on several fronts. Although the supranational context is making headlines more and more often, domestic policies are still the main driving forces with regard to criminal law . What is the criminological context in Italy at the moment?
Against consistent data that show a drop in the crime rates (especially for most serious crimes), the Italian public opinion appears more and more worried and anxious about the alleged "insecurity" of life in modern days. Feelings of insecurity are exacerbated by scandalistic media and TV shows which seem to thrive on crime reports. For example, think of the murder of Meredith Kercher, a foreign student in Perugia. Media reported the crime almost daily for over 2 years and Perugia, among the quietest and safest Italian cities, suddenly became the symbol of modern crime in Italy. Further, despite the significant overcrowding of Italian prisons (standard capacity is at 45.000, while inmates are 60.000) recent legislation has exploited the "fear" especially against illegal immigrants, who were criminalised in 2009. A rather shortsighted move, given that Italy has currently a backlog of around 5 million criminal cases.

Let us turn back to the foundational assumptions of the FIDUCIA project. What are its main objectives?
The FIDUCIA consortium identified four categories of crimes that constitute current pan-European emergencies: cyber crimes, human traffikcing, drug traffcking and the "crime of migration". We are hoping to collect reliable data on these areas of crime, to establish what trends exist in these areas across Europe and more importantly, to determine whether "inclusive, trust-based" strategies could work in tackling those crimes.

FP7 projects often fail to adequately convey their findings to the wider community of researchers, scholars, and policy makers. With the FIDUCIA project, how do you intend to tackle the issue?
We are fully aware of the issues with dissemination, and the FIDUCIA website is our first attempt to generate interest for a new style of policy that could work for both new and "traditional" forms of crime. Furthermore, we made the decison to host our first international meeting at the Bilbao conference of the European Society of Criminology, precisely because the wide community of European criminologists and sociologists will meet there. If you come to Bilbao, join the FIDUCIA roundtable on September 13 to learn more about our activities and future events.

You are currently serving as a lecturer in Law at the University of Parma, Italy, correct?
Yes, I have been teaching criminal procedure in Parma since 2005. I moved back to Italy after my doctoral studies at Oxford. This is not a good era for legal studies across Europe. Faculties of Law are experiencing a sharp decline in applications, as fewer students see a future in the profession of law. The combination of economic slowdown and austerity measures will certainly result in a decrease in the number of practicing lawyers in the next decade. We hope that more interaction with the social sciences will make the study of the law more attractive across Europe