Procedural rights and detention conditions

07-12-2017

Despite the significant EU action and cooperation that has taken place, the rights and detention conditions of those suspected of committing a crime and serving a sentence in the Member States continue to fail to live up to international and EU standards. Judicial cooperation within the EU is not yet fully adapted to this reality, it operates in absence of an EU mechanism monitoring Member States' compliance with practical fundamental rights and lacks specific guidance for alleged violations. EU legislation on suspects' rights is limited to setting common minimum standards. Even so, there are already indications of shortcomings concerning key rights to a fair trial, such as the right to interpretation, translation, information and legal assistance during questioning by the police. Furthermore, certain areas have not been comprehensively addressed, such as pre-trial detention, contributing to prison overcrowding in a number of EU Member States. The outstanding divergent levels of protection also create discrimination between EU citizens. Criminal justice systems remain inefficient and fail to achieve the aims of convicting and rehabilitating the guilty, while protecting the innocent. This impacts on the individuals concerned, in terms of a denial of their rights and material and immaterial damage; on their families; and on Member States' societies more generally. The gaps and barriers identified also have substantial cost implications. Finally, this study assesses the added value of a number of options for EU action and cooperation to contribute to closing these gaps and taking further steps to ensure the effective protection of the rights of suspects and detained persons.

Despite the significant EU action and cooperation that has taken place, the rights and detention conditions of those suspected of committing a crime and serving a sentence in the Member States continue to fail to live up to international and EU standards. Judicial cooperation within the EU is not yet fully adapted to this reality, it operates in absence of an EU mechanism monitoring Member States' compliance with practical fundamental rights and lacks specific guidance for alleged violations. EU legislation on suspects' rights is limited to setting common minimum standards. Even so, there are already indications of shortcomings concerning key rights to a fair trial, such as the right to interpretation, translation, information and legal assistance during questioning by the police. Furthermore, certain areas have not been comprehensively addressed, such as pre-trial detention, contributing to prison overcrowding in a number of EU Member States. The outstanding divergent levels of protection also create discrimination between EU citizens. Criminal justice systems remain inefficient and fail to achieve the aims of convicting and rehabilitating the guilty, while protecting the innocent. This impacts on the individuals concerned, in terms of a denial of their rights and material and immaterial damage; on their families; and on Member States' societies more generally. The gaps and barriers identified also have substantial cost implications. Finally, this study assesses the added value of a number of options for EU action and cooperation to contribute to closing these gaps and taking further steps to ensure the effective protection of the rights of suspects and detained persons.