Effective Criminal Defence in Europe

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Effective Criminal Defence in Europe summarizes the findings of a three-year research project to explore and compare access to effective defense in criminal proceedings across nine European jurisdictions.

Every year, millions of people across Europe—innocent and guilty—are arrested and detained by the police. For some, their cases go no further than the police station. Many others eventually appear before a court and spend time in custody both before and following trial.

This research examines not only how defense rights are framed in domestic legislation, and whether standards set by the European Convention on Human Rights are met, but also how these rights are implemented in practice and whether structures and systems exist to enable individuals to effectively exercise these rights. For instance, domestic legislation may provide for the right to a lawyer immediately on arrest, but if there is no system by which a lawyer can be contacted on a 24 hour basis, then the arrested person may not be in position to exercise their right to counsel effectively.

It also considers legal and professional cultures: the law may provide for a right to cross-examine witnesses or to call evidence, but without lawyers who actively use these rights on behalf of defendants, they will not be available in practice.

The summary (available for download) presents suggestions for overall European standards as well as specific findings and recommendations for nine countries: Belgium, England and Wales, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Turkey. Individual country reports are also available online.

The complete results of the research, analysis, and conclusions are published in a book: Effective Criminal Defence in Europe, by E. Cape, Z. Namoradze, R. Smith, and T. Spronken (Antwerpen-Oxford: Intersentia, 2010).

This project has been a joint undertaking of Maastricht University, JUSTICE, the University of the West of England, and the Open Society Justice Initiative. It was funded by the European Community and the Open Society Institute.