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EU COMPLETES PACKAGE OF LAWS TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO JUSTICE ACROSS THE UNION

08 Jul 2016: Dublin and Brussels - Friday, 8 July 2016
Press Release

After seven years the EU has reached political agreement on the final element of a package of laws to improve defence rights across the Union. Yesterday the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament (LIBE) voted by 44 votes to 1 to approve the text of the Directive on Legal aid for suspects or accused persons deprived of liberty and legal aid in European arrest warrant proceedings, agreed in trilogue negotiations between the Council, Parliament and Commission.

Speaking after the vote, Mr Mark Kelly, consortium leader for the JUSTICIA European Rights Network, welcomed the new Directive saying,

"Already we have seen European leaders strengthen criminal justice systems across the EU by setting down minimum standards for countries to provide access to a lawyer when people are accused of crimes. The truth is that having access to a lawyer is meaningless if you do not have the money to pay for one. Particularly, this new law will make a huge difference to people who are detained in police stations, conferring them the absolute right to seek legal aid."

The Directive requires Member States to provide legal aid to criminal suspects and accused persons who are deprived of their liberty, are required to be assisted by a lawyer in accordance with Union law or national law, or who are required or permitted to attend an investigative or evidence-gathering act. Legal aid must be provided without delay, at a minimum before the suspect is questioned by the police or before the investigating or evidence-gathering acts. Under the Directive, legal aid must also be available to people subject to a European Arrest Warrant, in both the executing and the issuing State. However, JUSTICIA remains concerned that the scope does not fully mirror the earlier Directive on Access to a Lawyer and there will likely remain some gaps in accessing legal aid.

The Directive also sets down practical rules for how legal aid systems should operate, requiring an effective and competent legal aid authority that makes decisions diligently and respects the rights of the defence. Member States must also take action, including by providing funding, to ensure legal aid decision makers and lawyers are adequately trained. This should ensure that decisions on legal aid and the provision of legal aid services are of a high quality to safeguard the fairness of proceedings.
Once the text is formally adopted in the Autumn, Member States will have 30 months to align their laws with the provisions under the Directive. Mr Kelly added,

"This Directive will provide real benefits to all EU Members States both nationally and in relation to cross-border initiatives. JUSTICIA members are calling on national Parliamentarians to prioritise making these rights real in domestic law and policy".

ENDS
Contact:
Emily Glen, Communications Officer
Ph: 0879981574

NOTES TO EDITORS:

The full text of the Directive on Legal Aid for Suspects or Accused Persons Deprived of Liberty and Legal Aid in European Arrest Warrant is available to download from http://www.emeeting.europarl.europa.eu/committees/agenda/201607/LIBE/LIBE(2016)0707_1P/sitt-3154455
 See: 5. Legal aid for suspects or accused persons deprived of liberty and legal aid in European arrest warrant proceedings COM-COM(2013)0824 - Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on provisional legal aid for suspects or accused persons deprived of liberty and legal aid in European arrest warrant proceedings

What is JUSTICIA?
JUSTICIA European Rights Network is operated by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and consists of 19 Network Member organisations based in 17 Member States, listed below. As well as preparing the Network’s projected activities such as holding training seminars and conferences; producing various publications; engaging in collective lobbying in the area of EU criminal justice, JUSTICIA has developed an EU Justice portal designed to make it easier for citizens, victims of crime, accused and suspected persons, legal practitioners, researchers, policy makers and other interested parties to access a wide range of materials including EU legislation, press statements, fact-sheets, academic research, and relevant case law.

What is the Stockholm Programme - Swedish Procedural Rights Roadmap?
The Stockholm Programme outlined the EU’s priorities for the area of justice, freedom and security for the period 2010-14. It followed the Tampere and Hague programmes. The Swedish procedural Rights Roadmap is the action plan of the Stockholm Programme in the area of procedural rights. It sets out measures which aim to foster protection of suspected and accused persons in criminal proceedings and facilitate the application of the principle of mutual recognition of judicial decisions.
The JUSTICIA European Rights Network continues in its endeavours to monitor the progress of, shape the outcome of and contribute to supervising the implementation of the measures contained in the Swedish Procedural Rights Roadmap.
The Swedish Roadmap can be accessed from here: http://eujusticia.net/images/uploads/pdf/Swedish_Roadmap_July_09.pdf
The Stockholm Programme can be accessed from here:
http://eujusticia.net/images/uploads/pdf/the_stockholm_programme.pdf

This statement is endorsed by the following JUSTICIA Network members:
Associazione Antigone Onlus (Italy), Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, Civil Rights Defenders (Sweden), Croatian Law Centre, Estonian Human Rights Centre, Greek Helsinki Monitor, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland), Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lithuania), Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, KISA - Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism (Cyprus), Latvian Centre for Human Rights, League of Human Rights (Czech Republic), Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights (Austria), Open Society Institute Budapest Foundation (trans-national), Rights International Spain, and The Peace Institute (Slovenia).



JUSTICIA European Rights Network