Legal Experts Advisory Panel

The Legal Experts Advisory Panel (LEAP) is our network of fair trial defenders. The network brings together lawyers, academics, civil society representatives, activists, and people with lived experience in the criminal justice system. LEAP works to uphold human rights, fairness and justice in criminal justice systems across Europe, focusing on both the operation of these systems and the theories and issues that drive them.

By uniting specialists across sectors, LEAP can provide an expert view on a broad range of criminal justice topics. Our members regularly collaborate, sharing expertise across borders and working together to ensure that everybody’s rights are respected.

LEAP is coordinated by Fair Trials, with the financial support of the Justice Programme of the European Union. Currently, we have more than 100 members from across the EU (and beyond), and we are always looking for more passionate people to join LEAP!

How does LEAP defend fair trial rights?

LEAP helps inform the EU’s criminal justice agenda and monitors the implementation of EU standards in Member States by:

  • Providing input and response to proposed legislation, such as the European Commission’s criminalisation approach to hatred;
  • Advocating for new measures to ensure strong fair trial rights standards; including informing Fair Trials’ call on the EU to ban the use of artificial intelligence for predictive policing;
  • Engaging with EU stakeholders to raise awareness of issues in Europe, including discussions with EU Commissioners and Members of the European Parliament;
  • Researching emerging challenges to fair trial rights, including our briefing on pre-trial detention in the EU;
  • Researching domestic practices and their impact on fair trials rights, such as our analysis of trial waiver systems in Hungary and Croatia
  • Advocating for the respect of EU standards, including our open letter regarding the rule of law in Poland.

Our LEAP members also include lawyers on the frontlines of the defence of fair trial rights, documenting violations and ensuring that people who have their procedural rights violated have access to effective remedies.

Focus areas

LEAP currently focuses on two key issues threatening fair trials rights in the EU: pre-trial detention and racial injustice.

Pre-trial detention

Depriving a person of liberty while they await trial is one of the most severe measures in our criminal justice system. However, the number of people held in pre-trial detention in the EU remains worryingly high. The widespread overuse of pre-trial detention indicates that the mechanisms to uphold the rule of law are failing. LEAP is working to ensure that pre-trial detention remains an exceptional measure of last resort. Find out more about pre-trial detention here.

Racial injustice

Discriminatory attitudes have a real impact on decisions throughout the criminal justice process. Outcomes can be skewed at every stage of criminal proceedings, from arrest to sentencing. Racialised people are disproportionately criminalised, prosecuted, held in pre-trial detention, sentenced, and given longer sentences. They are also more likely to see their procedural rights violated in criminal proceedings. LEAP is working to expose systemic discrimination and advocate for concrete changes to ensure fair and equal criminal justice systems.

Join LEAP

Are you a lawyer, academic, civil society representative or activist working on issues related to the right to a fair trial in the EU? Join our LEAP network by contacting Ioana Barbulescu.

By joining LEAP, you’ll be able to:

  • Attend our annual LEAP Conference
  • Collaborate with colleagues and share expertise on issues in the criminal justice field
  • Contribute to our policy analysis, documents, open letters and other publications
  • Participate in our monthly catch-up calls to discuss specific issues in the criminal justice field
  • Receive our quarterly updates detailing the most pressing issues in criminal justice