Parliamentary immunity, defined as the full or partial immunity of members of parliament from measures of investigation or prosecution for civil or criminal matters, is known to virtually all (national) parliaments. Its purpose is to safeguard the proper functioning of parliament by enabling it to discharge its tasks without undue influence of interference by, especially, the executive and judiciary.
Systems of parliamentary immunity differ significantly in terms of legal design, characteristics and scope: while in some systems protection is limited to freedom of speech in parliament, parliamentarians in other systems may not, in principle, be prosecuted even for serious crimes without prior authorization by the assembly of which they are members.
Even though there is broad consensus among scholars and throughout legal systems that parliamentary immunity is an important institution without which parliaments would not, or not to a sufficient degree, be able to discharge their constitutional functions in a democratic system, it is also alleged that immunity facilitates corruption, libel and slander within the ranks of parliament and may, at times, even infringe upon human rights of citizens.
The question is, therefore, how systems of parliamentary immunity are best designed. A comparative study of the systems of parliamentary immunity of the UK, France, the Netherlands and the European parliament will explore a variety of legal options and seek to establish a catalogue of minimum and maximum requirements for the organization of a system of immunities.
This four-year Ph.D. project was carried out by Sascha Hardt and funded by Maastricht University's Faculty of Law.
In 2013 the book 'Parliamentary Immunity: A Comprehensive Study of the Systems of Parliamentary Immunity in the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands in a European Context' was published by Intersentia.