PN070205E

IMMEDIATE

MONDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2005

ATTENTION: NEWS EDITORS/HOME AFFAIRS/LEGAL/EUROPEAN/ POLITICAL CORRESPONDENTS

LORDS CALL FOR THE EU TO STRENGTHEN SAFEGUARDS FOR INDIVIDUALS FACING CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

EU citizens under investigation outside their home country should have access to a high-level of procedural rights during the investigation, prosecution and trial of criminal offences, according to a new Lords Report.

The Lords Sub-Committee on law and institutions examined the EU Commission's proposal aimed at strengthening the rights of suspects and defendants.

Cases such as the British plane-spotters in Greece show the breadth of legal and cultural differences between Member States.

As EU laws, such as the European Arrest Warrant, require the authorities in one Member State to assist in the criminal investigatory procedures of another, those authorities must have the confidence that the individual citizens concerned will be treated fairly and in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Chairman of the Committee, Lord Scott of Foscote, said:

"British citizens facing justice abroad will only be confident of access to standards of criminal justice comparable to those in the United Kingdom if the Government takes a strong stance on minimum safeguards now."

The Commission's proposals cover the following rights:

  • to legal advice

  • to an interpreter and translation of documents

  • to communication with the nearest embassy/high commission

  • to be given a "Letter of Rights" in their own language

The Lords Report welcomes the Commission's proposals and makes recommendations for strengthening them.

The Report calls for the UK Government to take the lead in agreeing a high-level of protection throughout the EU for anyone arrested outside their home country. The temptation to agree standards at the lowest common denominator level must be avoided.

The Committee received evidence from a wide range of organisations including the AA Motoring Trust, Amnesty International, Crown Prosecution Service, EUROJUST, Road Haulage Association, Metropolitan Police Service, JUSTICE, and Fair Trails Abroad.

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. The Committee examined the Commission's draft Framework Decision (see link below)

http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/04/555&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

which responds to criticisms of procedural safeguards in the European Arrest Warrant. (see link below)

http://europa.eu.int/comm/justice_home/fsj/criminal/extradition/wai/fsj_criminal_extradition_en.htm

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crimpol/oic/europeanunion/eaw.html

2. The report is published by The Stationery Office: Procedural Rights in Criminal Proceedings, House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, 1st Report, Session 2004−05, HL Paper 28, ISBN 0-10-400615-3, price £20.00.

3. The Members of the EU Sub-Committee on Law and Institutions who conducted the inquiry were:

Lord Borrie

Lord Clinton-Davisn

Lord Denham

Lord Grabiner

Lord Henley

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

Lord Neill of Bladen

Lord Scott of Foscote (Chairman)

Lord Thomas of Monifieth

For copies of the report please contact:

  • Jillian Bailey, Press and Publicity Officer (Committees)

020 7219 8659.

For background information please contact:

  • Chris Kerse, Second Counsel to the Chairman of Committees on

020 7219 3043.

[ENDS]