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Procedural safeguards for citizens in criminal proceedings


Read the European Commission’s proposals to further strengthen procedural safeguards for citizens in criminal proceedings:

1. A Directive to strengthen the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at trial in criminal proceedings: It will guarantee respect for the presumption of innocence of all citizens suspected or accused by police and judicial authorities by guaranteeing that (1) guilt cannot be inferred by any official decisions or statements before a final conviction; (2) the burden of proof is placed on the prosecution and any doubt benefits the suspect or accused person; (3) the right to remain silent is guaranteed and not used against suspects to secure conviction; and (4) the accused has the right to be present at the trial (see Annex for more details). 
2. A Directive on special safeguards for children suspected or accused of a crime: It will make sure that children, who are vulnerable because of their age, have mandatory access to a lawyer at all stages. This means that children cannot waive their right to be assisted by a lawyer, as there is a high risk that they would not understand the consequence of their actions if they were able to waive their rights. Children are also set to benefit from other safeguards such as being promptly informed about their rights, being assisted by their parents (or other appropriate persons), not being questioned in public hearings, the right to receive medical examination and being kept separate from adults inmates if deprived of liberty. 

3. A Directive on the right to provisional legal aid for citizens suspected or accused of a crime and for those subject to a European Arrest Warrant: It will ensure that suspects have access to legal aid at the early stages of criminal proceedings (when accused citizens are particularly vulnerable, especially if deprived of liberty). It will also guarantee legal aid for people arrested under a European Arrest Warrant (see Annex for details). 

These legislative proposals are complemented by two Commission Recommendations to Member States:

1. A Recommendation on procedural safeguards for vulnerable people suspected or accused in criminal proceedings: ensuring that vulnerable people (for example suffering from physical or mental disabilities) are detected and recognised, and that their special needs are taken into account in criminal proceedings. If citizens do not understand the proceedings or the consequences of actions such as confessing, this leads to "inequality of arms". The Recommendation proposes that vulnerable suspects benefit from special safeguards such as mandatory access to a lawyer, assistance by an appropriate third person and medical assistance.
2. A Recommendation on the right to legal aid for suspects or accused persons in criminal proceedings: providing common factors to take into account in the assessment of whether one has a right to legal aid, and ensure the quality and effectiveness of legal aid services and administration.