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NEWS

The road ahead: Fair Trials launch new report on defence rights in Europe

editor - March 16, 2016 - EU Directives on procedural rights, justice in europe, LEAP, legal experts advisory panel, plea bargaining

The Legal Experts Advisory Panel – an EU-wide network of over 150 criminal justice experts coordinated by Fair Trials – has today published a major report outlining its contribution to the development and implementation of EU criminal justice law and policy over the past two years. As the protection of human rights within the European Arrest Warrant comes under renewed threat, LEAP outlines its crucial role in ensuring that fair trial rights remain a priority.
Building on priorities identified in March 2014, the report highlights LEAP’s recent work, which has focused on the following three areas:

  1. Contribution to EU policy and legislation: LEAP members work on fair trial rights issues every day and are therefore perfectly placed to inform the development of laws in this area. Its recent contributions have, for example, had notable impact on the recently agreed texts of the Presumption of Innocence Directive and the Children’s Directive. LEAP continues to support the negotiations of the Proposed Legal Aid Directive, and has also provided input in relation to EU measures on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, the European Criminal Records Information System and on combatting terrorism.
  2. Making EU laws on fair trial rights work in practice: LEAP recognises that the adoption of legislation is only first step towards improved fair trial rights protection and has since February 2015 been guided by its implementation strategy – Towards an EU Defence Rights Movement. LEAP’s implementation activities include (a) identifying implement nation challenges arising in practice; (b) informing developments in national legislation; (c) providing training to defence practitioners; and (d) sharing expertise with national and regional courts.
  3. Identifying emerging fair trial rights issues: In addition to reacting to and providing expert input on EU initiatives, LEAP’s contribution also includes the identification of emerging fair trial rights issues which should be on the agenda of legislators across the EU. Issues which LEAP is currently examining include (a) the increasing use of plea bargaining within criminal justice systems across the EU and the adequacy of safeguards in place to prevent unjust outcomes; (b) the inter-relationship between migration and criminal justice; (c) challenges relating to evidence, and particularly problems associated with the increasing role of electronic evidence and, in terrorism cases, the use of confidential evidence; and (d) the excessive and unjustified use of pre-trial detention, in relation to which Fair Trials (with significant LEAP input) will soon be publishing a report calling for EU legislative action to address this as a matter of urgency.

The report will be launched at a roundtable hosted by Fair Trials, together with MEP Nathalie Griesbeck at the European Parliament on 16th March. The event will gather MEPs, lawyers, academics and representatives of the European civil society to discuss challenges ahead for  the defence of procedural rights across the Union, and build on the progress we’ve made so far.
Three different panels will be examining: the implementation of the EU directives on procedural rights, with a particular focus on Bulgarian and Polish experiences; next steps under the current EU roadmap, particularly the proposed Directive on Legal Aid; new challenges in criminal defence rights, including evidence in terrorism cases and our new plea-bargaining campaign.
The launch of the report will also be a valuable opportunity to spotlight the key role of LEAP in upholding procedural safeguards in Europe. Coordinated by Fair Trials Europe, LEAP is the most effective network of experts in criminal defence rights in the EU. Today, it counts more than 120 members across 28 EU member states. Thanks to its widespread structure, LEAP is in a unique position to take the pulse of defence rights from Lisbon to Tallinn. This is vital to Fair Trials’ advocacy work towards the EU institutions, as it helps to collect reliable and precise information on the ground and improve the implementation of the EU law concerning procedural rights.
You can read the full report here.

Each day this week we will be covering a different aspect of LEAP, the Legal Experts Advisory Panel.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +44 (0) 7950 849 851.

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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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