Criminal justice: Commission evaluates Member States’ efforts in making sure suspects of crime get a fair trial

Today, the European Commission published its implementation report on one of the six EU procedural rights directives, notably the EU Access to a lawyer directive. This Directive ensures people have the right to have a lawyer from the first stage of police questioning and throughout criminal proceedings, as well as to adequate, confidential meetings with the lawyer. This is essential to guarantee that every suspect of crime gets a fair trial. The report concludes that considerable progress has been made in the protection of fair trial rights in the EU, but also that Member States still have a lot of work to do. Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: “Across the EU, every year 9 million people face criminal proceedings. People may be found guilty or not guilty in the end. What matters is that they have a fair trial. Our EU procedural rights guarantee this, but Member States must ensure these agreed rights are secured in practice. Correctly applying these rules in all EU countries is also crucial to ensure tools such as the European arrest warrant can function well.” Particular points of attention concern the situations when exceptionally and temporarily suspects would not have the right to access a lawyer, and the rules on when and how citizens can waive their access to a lawyer, as well as conditions for how people can access a lawyer in the issuing Member State of a European arrest warrant. The Commission will continue to assess Member States’ compliance with the Directive and take every appropriate measure, including possible infringement proceedings, to ensure conformity with the provisions of the Directive throughout the European Union. The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights is also publishing a report today looking at the challenges defendants face in exercising some of their rights, with a focus on eight Member States.