The unchecked expansion of policing powers in Europe

LEAP Annual Conference 2022

Published: (Last updated: )

Unchecked and ever-expanding policing powers threaten the very core of fair trial rights. What can we do about it?

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a huge expansion of policing powers across Europe. During the crisis, governments saw an opportunity for increased repression and fearmongering. This led to the widening of the criminal net and an increase in the powers entrusted to the police and, in some cases, the military.

This not only amounts to the erosion of the rule of law and democratic oversight; it further amplifies violence and injustice towards marginalised communities. Vivid examples include generalised police brutality against racialised groups, the shrinking space for civil society, and the inhumane treatment of migrants arriving to the continent.

In the EU, we are also witnessing an expansion of Europol’s power, including to develop artificial intelligence tools. Policing relies increasingly on technology for surveillance and automated decision-making, replicating human bias and creating the potential to extend social control.

We face a lack of structural accountability to tackle the racism and discrimination enabled and perpetuated by Europe’s criminal justice systems. EU law and safeguards have focused on developing the rights of suspects and accused persons, but how does a person get there? Can the current safeguards protect against unfair, unlawful or abusive police action?


  • Ojeaku Nwabuzo, Senior Research Officer & Deputy Director, European Network Against Racism (ENAR)
  • Nura Al-Bahloul, CAGE
  • Erika Farkas, Legal Officer, Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  • Chloé Berthélémy, Policy Advisor, European Digital Rights (EDRi)
  • Griff Ferris, Legal and Policy Officer, Fair Trials

Moderated by: Ioana Barbulescu, Networks Coordinator, Fair Trials

This panel was part of the LEAP annual conference 2022 – (Re)imagining justice: A new era for fair trials? 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 criminal justice systems.

LEAP is funded by the European Union’s Justice Programme (2014-2020). The content of this event represents the views of the authors only and is their sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.