According to the European Commission (EC)’s factsheet of 2018, “across the European Union (EU) every year, 9 million people face criminal proceedings”. This means that 9 million accused or suspected persons in the EU every year require legal representation to ensure their minimum rights, such as access to a lawyer, presumption of innocence or legal aid. At the same time, the ever-increasing need for cross-border cooperation in criminal cases is reflected in the skyrocketing use of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), the most used EU instrument of mutual recognition in criminal matters (for instance, in 2015 it was issued over 16 thousand times).
Although effective European criminal justice legislation is obviously necessary to ensure an area of freedom, security and justice within the EU, it can only be successfully implemented through the active involvement of all justice professionals involved in criminal cases, including lawyers. These lawyers need to be familiarised and properly trained in the criminal law instruments that guarantee protection of the rights of suspects and accused. Besides, trained and experienced criminal lawyers, able to interact with each other in cross-border cases where the need of dual representation arises is a key element to ensuring equality of arms in criminal proceedings and the proper functioning of some EU legal instruments such as the EAW (as outlined in the EAW-Rights report which was published by the ELF and the CCBE in 2016 within the framework of the EU co-funded project EAW-Rights).
Criminal lawyers in EU Member States are not always familiar with the EU legal instruments for the protection of suspects and accused, and they may encounter difficulties when dealing with EAW cases. That is why the CRIMILAW project is implemented: to bring together, raise awareness and train 360 lawyers from 7 EU Member States on the following instruments on procedural rights in criminal proceedings:
- Directive 2013/48/EU on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and in EAW proceedings, and on the right to have a third party informed upon deprivation of liberty and to communicate with third persons and with consular authorities while deprived of liberty
- Directive (EU) 2016/343 on the strengthening of certain aspects of the presumption of innocence and of the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceedings
- Directive (EU) 2016/1919 on legal aid for suspects and accused persons in criminal proceedings and for requested persons in EAW proceedings
- Organisation of 12 seminars in 7 EU Member States on the 3 procedural rights directives and the impact of the European Arrest Warrant
- Production of national factsheets on the application of the 3 procedural rights directives in each of the 7 partner countries
- Production of training material (speakers’ presentations, speeches or notes) from the seminars which will be freely and publicly available on the ELF’s website
- Creation of informal networks of criminal lawyers from 7 EU Member States attending the seminars
The organisation of seminars is the best possible way to ensure two of the main aspects of this project: high-level training for lawyers, and the opportunity to use the seminars for networking purposes. The seminars will last one and a half days and will deal with 3 procedural rights directives, as well as with the European Arrest Warrant’s impact on these Directives. All the seminars will be identical in their structure (same seminar programme), participation (there will be attendees from 7 EU Member States in every seminar), training experts (speakers from 3 different Member States will speak at each seminar) and duration (1.5 days). The big cross-border element and the need to create informal networks of criminal lawyers who are able to communicate with each other make it necessary to hold the seminars in English.