New EU rules and guarantees in criminal proceedings in force

Member States that have not yet implemented the rules must do so as soon as possible

Photo: EPA Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality

The directive on special safeguards for children enters in force as of today. It is the last in a set of six EU directives guaranteeing procedural rights for people across the EU, completing the full set of rights. In addition to these new rights for children, the directive guaranteeing access to legal aid started to apply on 5 May. This package of rules ensures that EU citizens' fundamental rights of fair and equal treatment are respected in criminal proceedings and that they are applied in a similar way in all Member States.

“Children deserve special protection in criminal proceedings. With the new rules, we ensure that their privacy is respected or they are detained separately from adults. In addition, everyone in the EU can now be sure to have access to legal aid if they need it. While justice must be done, we must also ensure it is being done in full respect of our fundamental rights and values," Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, commented with Frans Timmermans, First-Vice President in charge of the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, adding that lawmakers should "defend and nourish our rule of law so as to foster unwavering faith in our justice systems and their ability to protect all our citizens and our societies."

Under the new rules children should be assisted by a lawyer and detained separately from adults if sent to prison. Privacy must be respected and questioning should be audio-visually recorded or recorded in another appropriate manner. In addition, the rules define clear criteria to grant legal aid if one is suspected or accused. They also stress that decisions concerning legal aid must be taken timely and diligently, and people must be informed in writing if their application is rejected in full or in part.

These rights complement several other rights that already apply in the EU such as the right to be presumed innocent and to be present at trial, the right to have a lawyer, the right to information, interpretation and translation.

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