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Publication

Why remote assistance breaches the EU Directive on the right of access to a lawyer

June 2, 2021 - Remote Justice
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Since 2016, the European Union Directive 2013/48/EU on the right of access to a lawyer (the Directive) requires EU Member States to guarantee that suspected persons have access to a lawyer before their first interview by law enforcement authorities and without undue delay after arrest.

Strong and effective procedural rights are key safeguards against police abuse, malpractice and the human errors that can lead to devastating miscarriages of justice and fundamental rights violations. Lawyers are the predominant counterpower to the State in the criminal justice process. They provide important oversight over agents of state force. Rebalancing the power dynamic during the investigation phase, and in particular when persons are detained, is one of the primary objectives of the right of access to a lawyer as defined under the Directive.

The Directive requires Member States to guarantee that suspected persons have access to a lawyer before their first interview by law enforcement authorities and without undue delay after arrest. Since it entered into force in 2016, most States appear to have adequately transposed the Directive in their legislation. In practice, however, the right of access to a lawyer remains to date widely unimplemented throughout the EU, leaving the majority of people suspected of a crime, in particular those deprived of liberty, to face police questioning alone.

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