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NEWS

LEAP annual conference 2015: Mutual Trust must cut both ways

editor - February 13, 2015 - eu court, European Arrest Warrant, European Parliament, LEAP, legal aid, Pre-trial detention, Presumption of innocence

LEAP CropThere continue to be issues with the use and application of European Arrest Warrants across Europe, with too many authorities making legal presumptions on fundamental rights protections available to suspects, on the basis of mutual trust. There is also the feeling that the Arrest Warrants are continuing to be used when other methods would be more appropriate. The findings were made at LEAP’s Annual Conference, which was held in Amsterdam last weekend. The conference was attended by lawyers, academics and NGO representatives from over 20 EU Member States.

The two day meeting, which took place on 6th and 7th February, began with a panel of speakers from the EU institutions, featuring Dennis de Jong from the European Parliament, Steven Cras from the Council of the EU, and Bӓrbel Heinkelmann from the European Commission. It was an opportunity to bring together the three different institutions and hear their unique perspectives, touching upon the Roadmap so far, as well as on future initiatives, including the proposed Directives on the presumption of innocence, legal aid, and safeguards for children in criminal proceedings. Also present for this session was Lars Bay Larsen, a Judge at the Court of Justice of the EU, offering the view from Luxembourg.

The conference was not just about hearing from others, and a great deal of time was spent in smaller breakout groups, allowing everyone the chance to contribute. These workshops allowed LEAP members to use and share their specific expertise and interests, with lawyers from England and Wales able to learn about access to a lawyer from the experiences of lawyers in Ireland or Poland, for example, and vice versa.

The second half of the conference focused on the implementation of measures so far. The weekend stressed that getting the Directives in place is just the first step, and that ensuring that the Directives are properly implemented is key, with an important role to be played by lawyers. Attendees heard from Professor Taru Spronken, and Nuala Mole from the AIRE Centre on giving effect to EU defence rights directives in criminal proceedings, also looking at where lessons could be learned from outside of the criminal field.

A central point which was returned to time and again, and highlighted by attendees as a growing concern, is the issue of mutual recognition, with the presumption of mutual trust being seen as major flaw in the operation of European Arrest Warrants.

Another of the guest speakers was Kasper van der Schaft, a prosecutor for the International Department of Amsterdam’s extradition court, who featured in a lively debate over whether the European Arrest Warrant still needed reforming. Mr van der Schaft has to have belief in the system in order to fulfil his job but, understandably, there were some differences of opinion between the prosecutor and a room filled with criminal defence lawyers. One counter argument made was that mutual trust is undermined so long as it does not cut both ways: Mutual recognition of EAW refusals is also needed.

A full communique from the event will be available soon.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on 020 7822 2370 or 07950 849 851.

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You can read more on last year’s LEAP annual conference here.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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