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Academics and trainings are key to strengthening fair trials

editor - January 11, 2017 - online training

Online trainings are one crucial feature of our work at Fair Trials to empower lawyers to defend the right to a fair trial. Over the last months, we have developed several modules on a wide range of topics related to defence rights, including cross-border justice, pre-trial detention and access to a lawyer. At Fair Trials, we are keen to involve academics to inform and contribute to our trainings. Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos is one of those and we have talked with him about the importance of trainings and about the role of academics in our Legal Experts Advisory Panel (LEAP). 
Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos is College Associate Dean and Senior Lecturer in Criminal Law at Brunel University London, and an Academic Fellow of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. He has published extensively on suspects’ rights and exclusionary rules for improperly obtained evidence.

1. Why do you think it’s important to involve academics in a network that works to promote fair trial rights, such as the Legal Experts Advisory Panel (LEAP)?
To help identify the gaps in existing frameworks and propose ways forward, particularly by taking into account normative considerations and comparative trends. For at least the last ten years, we have been witnessing tectonic shifts in European theory, legislation and jurisprudence on fair trial rights. Academics working in this area can play a vital role in ensuring that these theoretical and jurisprudential developments transform into concrete changes in practice. By accommodating academic experts and facilitating a close collaboration with criminal defence practitioners at the forefront of fair trial rights developments, LEAP provides a unique vehicle for the reform of fair trial rights.
2. Why did you decide to join the LEAP network?
Well, LEAP brings together criminal law practitioners, judges, prosecutors, academics, NGOs, EU law experts and policy makers from all over Europe, so I did not have to think twice. Fair trial rights do not exist in a theoretical vacuum. They are part of wider procedural and institutional frameworks, and take their true meaning as a result of the myriad day-to-day encounters between legal practitioners and criminal justice institutions. Networks like LEAP provide opportunities for academics to interact with legal practitioners at the centre of this process.
Joining LEAP meant getting direct access to a deeper understanding of how the criminal justice operates. It also meant contributing scholarly work to a network that aims to safeguard the rights of the millions of people that are caught in the net of criminal justice systems across Europe every year. This really puts academic work into a different – very refreshing – perspective.
3. What do you like the most about the LEAP network?
As a comparative criminal law expert, the fact that LEAP is a comparative law network par excellence! In the last few months alone, LEAP has called upon its members to provide information on their domestic jurisdictions, on pre-trial detention, police searches in law offices and the execution of EU arrest warrants for instance. The responses to them have been prompt and evidence-based, often unexpectedly illuminating I would say. Undertaking similar comparative surveys on an individual research basis would require the investment of colossal amounts of resources, in terms of time and money not least. A network like LEAP provides good access to comparative data and optimises opportunities for innovative research that can make a difference on the ground.
4. You have contributed to a number of Fair Trials’ trainings, the residential training in Athens and in London, at Brunel University, for instance. Can you tell us more about what you did and what was your experience from participating in these trainings?
Indeed, it’s been a busy year. In the residential training in Athens, for example, I have spoken to participants about how they should not be reluctant to use jurisprudence on suspects’ rights from other European countries. In making this argument, I drew upon work I have published in recent years, illustrating how domestic courts confronted with cases raising Salduz rights issues had looked at similar developments in foreign countries. In Athens, I coordinated the session with Greek LEAP experts. Since then I have been working closely with members of the group, and we are about to launch a number of activities aimed to bring the disconnect between theory and practice in Greek criminal procedure to the attention of relevant Greek governmental authorities, and relevant EU institutions as well.
5. To whom can trainings on the protection of fair trial rights be useful?
To defence lawyers, for starters. European Union law and ECHR jurisprudence now provide formidable resources for revitalising domestic fair trial perspectives that may have long been lying dormant in national law or never been implemented in the first place, and fair trial trainings can bring everyone up to speed with these seminal developments. But we should be more ambitious too. We should try to engage prosecutors and judges in these trainings, to ensure that they too are adjusting their approach to procedural fairness in line with modern transformations of relevant international human rights standards. Unless and until this happens, fair trial rights risk to be emptied of much substance.
6. In your experience, how did the participants respond to the training?
Quite wonderfully, I think. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the room for these new developments, a sense that there was now a much better chance to create a level playing field. What is more, the residential trainings seem to have a long-lasting effect. Many of the criminal law experts I met in these trainings are keen to be part of new fair trial projects. They see this as an ongoing process, and aspire to effect change into their domestic legal systems as part of this process. You can’t ask for much more to be fair.
7. Can online training help in the same way? What was your experience of contributing to the online training on the right to access to a lawyer?
Well, you can’t easily replace human interaction, can you? But on the other hand, online training can reach infinitely larger – more diverse – audiences, and at far less a significant financial cost. In any case, my experience from contributing to the online training has been a positive one. I enjoyed speaking to Fair Trials staff about recent developments with the right to access to a lawyer and judicial remedies, and I trust the videos have been put to good use. They come handy for teaching purposes as well, as I am planning to use them for my Criminal Justice lectures at Brunel University this year.
Watch below Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos discussing the right to access to a lawyer for one of our online trainings:

You can also hear from some of the practitioners we’ve trained here.

As with all of our guest posts, the views represented are of the author and may not reflect the views of Fair Trials.

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