New project examines suspects' rights in police detention in Europe


In France, suspects in police detention are assisted mostly by lawyers who are not spe-cialized in criminal law and by stagiaires.

In the Netherlands, lawyers often can not give meaningful advice to their clients in police detention because they receive no information about the case from police. In England and Wales, the information about the right to si-lence at police interview is given in such complicated language that most suspects do not understand it. In the neighboring Scotland, lawyers often advice suspects by telephone before the first police interview instead of a personal meeting. 

These practices undermine the effectiveness of suspects’ procedural rights. Guarantees of rights, which look good on paper, are often not afforded to suspects in police detention. Besides, in all too many European countries such guarantees are lower than prescribed by the European Convention of Human Rights.  

With these considerations in mind, Maastricht University and its partners Universities of Warwick and of the West of England, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, JUSTICE and Open Society Justice Initiative launched an empirical research project to examine the practical application of the procedural rights of suspects in police detention in four se-lected European jurisdictions: England and Wales, France, Netherlands and Scotland. 

The project will also develop training materials for police officers and criminal defense lawyers in these countries and, potentially, EU-wide. These materials will be used to raise awareness of the importance of suspects’ procedural rights, and to propose strategies for their implementation in practice. 

The research scope is informed by the ongoing debate on strengthening the procedural rights of suspects in the European Union. Thus, the project team chose to focus on three rights regulated by adopted or proposed European Directives: the right to interpretation and translation, to information in criminal proceedings, to access to a lawyer and to communicate upon arrest; as well as the right to silence. 

Coincidentally, all three countries covered by the research  - Great Britain, Netherlands and France - opted out of the Directive on the right to access to a lawyer and communica-tion upon arrest proposed by the European Commission. The project team hopes to use the research findings to highlight the necessity and benefits of participating in the EU leg-islative program on suspects’ procedural rights in respect of these countries, and beyond. 

The project builds upon the outcomes of earlier research undertaken by members of the project team.  

Results of the project will be presented in April 2013 and will be published in a book.

For more information, contact:

Professor Taru Spronken

Tel: + 31 43 388 2778 

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Anna Ogorodova

Tel: + 31 43 388 3084

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