Webinar: Digitalisation of justice: Is this the end of lawyers in police stations?


For people who have been arrested, the hours spent in police custody is a time of extreme vulnerability. What happens in the police station can determine the outcome of a criminal investigation and whether a person is released or held in detention pending the trial.

Legal assistance is key to protecting and helping people to understand their rights when facing the police. Lawyers’ presence in police stations can also protect arrested people from police violence and coercion.

If you are arrested or interviewed by law enforcement authorities in the EU, you have the right to be assisted by a lawyer, prior to and during questioning. The implementation of this right is inconsistent, but it was delivered a massive blow by the Covid-19 pandemic when in person access to a lawyer was restricted in many EU countries.

As a result, legal assistance in police custody either didn’t happen or was primarily provided remotely, via telephone or video-link. It was often reduced to a pre-interview phone consultation and strictly limited in time.

By the end of 2020, the European Commission is expected to outline measures to increase digitalisation in justice systems across the EU. Before rushing into long-term legislative changes that will transform the functioning of our justice systems, it is crucial that we understand the impact of remote legal assistance on defence rights.

This event is possible thanks to the financial support of the Justice Programme of the European Union (2014-2020).


Barbel Heinkelmann, Legal Officer, European Commission
Nicolas Cohen, Criminal Defence Lawyer, Jus Cogens
András Kádár, Attorney-at-law and Co-chair, Hungarian Helsinki Committee
Laure Baudrihaye-Gérard, Europe Legal Director, Fair Trials