Defending theHuman Rightto a Fair Trial
March 8, 2017
Between 2015 and 2016, Fair Trials carried out a regional research project on the use of pre-trial detention in 10 EU countries. Through their research, our local partners from England and Wales even contributed to the reform of the region’s Criminal Procedure Rules.
This guest post was written by Professor Ed Cape and Dr Tom Smith, from the Business and Law Faculty of the University of the West of England (UWE). As with all of our guest posts, the views represented are of the author and may not reflect the views of Fair Trials.
Professor Ed Cape and Dr Tom Smith, from the University of the West of England (UWE), recently saw their research achieve significant impact, namely contributing to the amendment of the Criminal Procedure Rules (CrimPR) in England and Wales.
In 2014/2015, Ed and Tom undertook research into the practice of pre-trial detention (PTD) in the region. This important area – which deals with bail and detention in custody prior to trial or conviction – was part of a 10 country, EU-funded study led by NGO Fair Trials. The objective of the project was to assess the practice of PTD across the EU, find examples of good and bad practice, and make policy recommendations to EU and domestic institutions. Ed and Tom conducted a desk-based review of PTD practice and procedure, surveyed criminal defence practitioners, observed PTD hearings, reviewed prosecution case files, and interviewed judges, magistrates and prosecutors. The findings of the research were published on the UWE research repository in early 2016 and incorporated into Fair Trials’ regional report, which was presented to the European Parliament in May 2016.
One of the significant findings of the research was that courts, on average, took very little time to consider these vital decisions about the liberty of unconvicted individuals – particularly at an early stage when evidence and disclosure might be incomplete. Additionally, the research also suggested that adequate time may not be available for the defence to consider information supplied to it about the prosecution case prior to a PTD hearing. As such, the final research report recommended that the CrimPR be amended to compel courts to ensure adequate time is given to making decisions regarding PTD and that more be done to allow the defence to fully consider relevant materials prior to hearings.
In March 2016, the CrimPR Committee was sent the report and responded positively to its findings and expressed interest in incorporating its recommendations into the Rules. Over the course of the last year, Ed and Tom have been engaged with the Committee, including through submission of a position paper, attendance at a Committee meeting, and ongoing dialogue and consultation with the Secretariat. In February 2017, the Committee amended Parts 8 (Initial Details of the Prosecution Case) and 14 (Bail and Custody Time Limits) of the CrimPR to:
“impose on the court a duty to ensure that if information about the prosecution case is supplied later than usually is required then the defendant, and any defence representative, is allowed sufficient time to consider it; (ii) explicitly to require that information provided for the court in bail proceedings must be provided for the defendant, too; and (iii) to require the court itself in bail proceedings to take sufficient time to consider the parties’ representations and reach its decision.”
In their guidance for the amended rules, the Committee acknowledged the contribution of the Ed and Tom’s report (alongside the input of other interested people). This is a successful outcome that demonstrates the practical impact research can have, particularly through constructive dialogue with policymakers.
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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Fair Trials Europe is a registered public foundation in Belgium (No. 552688677).
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(a registered charity with limited liability in England and Wales, Nos 1134586 and 7135273),
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