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LEAP annual conference – (Re)imagining justice: A new era for fair trials?

14 - 18 March 2022
Every afternoon (CET, GMT), Every morning (EST, PST)
Zoom links will be emailed to you closer to the time.

Policing powers are expanding unchecked across Europe. States are continually relying on the deprivation of liberty to respond to societal harms. Criminal justice systems are too often the source of harm for marginalised communities, and they are not keeping societies safe.

We need to rethink our criminal justice systems.

The 2022 LEAP annual conference will focus on the future of fair trials in Europe, examining the fundamental flaws in our current systems and what we can do about it. The LEAP Conference is free to join and is open to everyone.

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.

Monday 14 March, 16:00-18:00 CET

(Start time in other time zones: 15:00 GMT, 10:00 EST, 11:00 EDT, 8:00 PDT)

The Conference will be opened by Norman L. Reimer, Global CEO of Fair Trials and Laure Baudrihaye-Gérard, Legal Director (Europe).

(Start time in other time zones: 15:15 GMT, 10:15 EST, 11:15 EDT, 8:15 PDT)

Panel discussion

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

Tuesday 15 March, 15:30 – 18:00 CET

(Start time in other time zones: 14:30 GMT, 9:30 EST, 10:30 EDT, 7:30 PDT)

With simultaneous interpretation into French.

The EU’s role in criminal justice policy continues to develop and expand, including the recent launch of operations of the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office. There are also new challenges, as States continue to increase the reach of criminal law powers, such as the continued overuse of pre-trial detention.

Overreliance on pre-trial detention is a European-wide issue. What is the role of the EU? In this session, we will discuss the next steps for the EU with Jesca Beneder from the European Commission and explore what this means for criminal justice actors in the EU.

We will also hear from Anne-Sophie Bonnet from the French Contrôleur général des lieux de privation de liberté, who will explain how regional efforts can help support reform at national level. We will examine the follow-up and efforts at national level in response to the European Court of Human Rights ruling in 2020 which condemned France for its prison conditions. This was largely due to prison overcrowding driven by overuse of pre-trial detention.


  • Jesca Beneder, Legal Officer, European Commission, DG JUST
  • Anne-Sophie Bonnet, Controller & in charge of international relations, Contrôleur général des lieux de privation de liberté (France)

(Start time in other time zones: 15:30 GMT, 10:30 EST, 11:30 EDT, 8:30 PDT)

With simultaneous interpretation into French.

Panel discussion

Detaining a person in prison is one of the harshest displays of state power against an individual. It should be a measure of last resort, but it continues to be widely accepted as normal practice across Europe.

We are also witnessing an increase in the use of police forces’ administrative detention powers. Fundamental rights – such as the right to liberty, the presumption of innocence, and the right to silence – appear to be widely ignored or become meaningless in practice.

Policy solutions have largely followed the same carceral logic. Electronic monitoring is often used as a response to prison overcrowding, but this does not reduce the number of people caught in the system. Instead, it enables the expansion carceral control outside of the prison walls, while further deepening structural inequalities.

Deprivation of liberty as a one size fits all model for social control is not only unjust and unfit for purpose; it is also dehumanising. Its impact on the lives of impacted people, their families and their communities is severe and often definitive. It is high time that Europe reconsiders this model.


  • Laura Garius, Policy Lead, Release UK
  • Marcin Szwed, Strategic Litigation Programme, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
  • Seán Binder, Human Rights Campaigner
  • Julien Fischmeister, Observatoire International des Prisons (France)

Wednesday 16 March, 16:00-17:30 CET

(Start time in other time zones: 15:00 GMT, 10:00 EST, 11:00 EDT, 8:00 PDT)

As policing powers are expanded with no oversight, we also see an increase in the potential for coercive practices that significantly influence the outcome of justice. How can we identify these harmful and illegal techniques? What are the available remedies and possible redress under EU law?

This training aims to provide answers derived from the Mendez principles on effective interviewing: how to detect and prevent coercive interviewing by police and effectively communicate with clients for defence lawyers.

Participants will be encouraged to actively participate in the training exercises.


  • Ilze Tralmaka, Senior Legal and Policy Officer, Fair Trials
  • Verónica Hinestroza, Senior Legal Advisor, Fair Trials

Thursday 17 March, 15:00-18:30 CET

(Start time in other time zones: 14:00 GMT, 9:00 EST, 10:00 EDT, 7:00 PDT)

Europe’s criminal legal systems are no friends of marginalised communities. They are failing victims, who do not feel that police stations or courtrooms are safe spaces for them to report harm or achieve justice. They are failing people who cause harm, by dehumanising them, removing their agency and denying them a change of rehabilitation. They are unfit to deal with the complexity of harm outside a strict victim/perpetrator lens.

Criminal legal systems are too often the source of harm for marginalised communities, and they are not keeping societies safe. Nevertheless, criminalisation and the carceral system are still heavily relied upon to deal with all forms of societal harm.

This roundtable aims to discuss the shortcomings of this model, based on the direct experiences of different communities and groups. Participants will explore alternatives being explored around the world and the opportunities and limitations for their application in Europe.

This roundtable will provide a space for civil society representatives to discuss and share ideas.

If you’re not completely sure how you feel about decriminalisation and diversion from criminal legal systems – this is also a space for you!

(Start time in other time zones: 15:30 GMT, 10:30 EST, 11:30 EDT, 8:30 PDT)

Join us for an informal happy hour where members of the Fair Trials team will explore the most pressing concerns for criminal justice reform. Participants will have a chance to discuss Fair Trials’ work, upcoming projects and strategic priorities. Come along and give your inputs!

Friday 18 March, 16:00-18:00 CET

(Start time in other time zones: 15:00 GMT, 10:00 EST, 11:00 EDT, 8:00 PDT)

Members of the LEAP network will present on their topics of expertise and interest. They will discuss emerging threats to fair trials rights, priority areas for criminal justice reform and lessons learnt from implementations in their countries.

  • Dr Tom Smith, Associate Professor in Law, University of the West of England presenting on addressing the risks for autistic individuals faced with police power
  • Nicola Bier, Lawyer specialising in cross border judicial cooperation and criminal law presenting on the transportation of detained persons
  • Oliver Wallasch, Attorney at Law – Specialist in Criminal Law presenting on the admissibility of evidence from the EncroChat hack
  • Vladimir Hrle, Attorney at Law presenting on fair trial rights & the Western Balkans’ accession to the EU
  • Nicola Canestrini, Lawyer presenting on the European Arrest Warrant and the right to health
  • Nicoletta Charalambidou, Advocate and member of KISA presenting on how our criminal justice systems are failing victims
  • Jenny Nguyen, Junior Legal Advisor, Civil Rights Defenders presenting on racism in the Swedish criminal justice system

More speakers to be announced.

(Start time in other time zones: 16:30 GMT, 11:30 EST, 12:30 EDT, 9:30 PDT)

We will discuss what we can do to support LEAP members and other fair trial defenders given the current context.

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.

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