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A guide to LEAP, an EU-wide network of front line defenders of the human right to a fair trial

editor - March 15, 2016 - access to a lawyer, Access to Justice, EU Directives on procedural rights, LEAP, LEAP annual conference, legal experts advisory panel, plea bargaining

FT Logo LEAPWhat is LEAP?
LEAP is the Legal Experts Advisory Panel, an EU-wide community of front line defenders of the human right to a fair trial. LEAP comprises over 150 members from 28 countries working in the field of criminal justice: this includes 119 Legal practitioner members, 22 NGO members and 15 academic members.

What does LEAP do?LEAP_Dara quote
Using its collection of EU-wide legal experts, LEAP functions as a facilitator of knowledge exchange, allowing experts from across Europe to educate one another on the issues they face and how they have dealt with said issues – thus improving defence rights through sharing best practices. LEAP also acts as network whereby legal experts congregate, make new contacts, and brainstorm new initiatives to better protect fair trial rights.
LEAP members not only provide eyes and ears across the EU – identifying the underlying causes of unfair trials when they appear – but they also help explain to policy-makers what changes are really needed, and work to make sure that laws passed in Brussels have a real impact on the protection of fair trial rights in practice.

Where does LEAP work?
LEAP works exclusively in the EU. A major aspect of LEAP's goals has been the promotion and implementation of key EU legislation, the defence rights Directives; LEAP has also served as an invaluable tool for connecting with legal experts across the continent.

What does a LEAP member do?
For the majority of the year LEAP members will continue to do their regular jobs, be it a lawyer, NGO worker, or academic. Throughout the year there are conferences, which members are welcome to join. Once  a year Fair Trials Europe coordinates the annual LEAP conference, in which members share best practices and exchange ideas for the progression of criminal justice rights.
The work of LEAP members focuses on three key areas:

  • LEAP_Katarzyna quoteContribution to EU legislation. LEAP has played a significant role in the development of the Roadmap Directives adopted by the EU. For example, it made a series of recommendations to strengthen the Directives on the presumption of innocence, and on procedural safeguards for children (both passed in 2015), some of which were taken on board. LEAP has also advocated for changes to the proposed directive on legal aid in European Arrest Warrant procedures.
  • Implementation. LEAP members work to ensure effective implementation of EU legislation by producing comparative law analyses on specific fair trial rights issues; by informing national legislation to guarantee EU standards are crystalized into law: and by intervening in cases brought to the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Influencing the EU’s legislative agenda. LEAP’s expert contribution also includes identifying emerging fair trial rights issues that should be on the agenda of legislators across the EU. Among these emerging themes feature the injustices of plea bargaining, the protection of asylum seekers' and refugees' procedural rights, and the admissibility of different types of evidence, for instance in terrorism cases.

What is the LEAP annual conference?
The conference changes location year to year, but over the course of the programme attendees are able to hear lectures from former judges, public defendants as well as presentations from NGOs, academics, and legal practitioners. The conference also includes workshops in which smaller groups tackle important legal issues facing Europe. The workshops act as a platform for communication and debate, as well as learning.

Why is LEAP so important?
LEAP_Alejandro quoteLEAP is an informal network of people who dedicate their time to it voluntarily. Due to the limited obligations of members this allows for transnational participation, bringing together people who would otherwise never have met to share their stories. More than anything else though, it is a crucial and unique network whereby local knowledge can be exchanged and utilised to help build stronger fair trial rights across the EU.

Each day this week we will be covering a different aspect of LEAP, the Legal Experts Advisory Panel.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +44 (0) 7950 849 851.

For regular updates follow Fair Trials on Twitter or sign up to our monthly bulletin at the bottom of the page.

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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