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Commission proposal to guarantee citizens’ rights to access a lawyer to become law

A European Commission proposal guaranteeing the right of all citizens in the EU to be advised by a lawyer when facing criminal proceedings has been formally adopted on 7 October 2013, after approval was given by the Council of Ministers.

This followed a vote by the European Parliament to endorse the Directive on 10 September (MEMO/13/772). In practice, this means that all suspects – no matter where they are in the European Union – in future will be guaranteed the right to be advised by a lawyer from the earliest stages of proceedings until their conclusion. Where a suspect is arrested, the new rules would ensure that the person has the opportunity to communicate with their family. If they are outside of their home country, citizens would have the right to be in contact with their country’s consulate.

"This law is a victory for justice and a victory for citizens' rights in the European Union," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU's Justice Commissioner. "This is the third proposal from the European Commission to guarantee fair trial rights for people everywhere in the EU, whether they are at home or abroad. We are delivering on our promise to strengthen citizens’ rights everywhere in Europe. And by 'we', I mean Members of the European Parliament and national Ministers. In particular I want to thank the Rapporteur Ms Oana Antonescu and Minister Alan Shatter who for their committed and swift work on this important proposal. The ball is now in the court of Member States not to lose time but implement this law in their national systems sooner rather than later, for the benefit of our citizens."

Following the adoption, the law will be published in the EU's Official Journal within weeks, after which Member States will have three years to implement it in national law.
Once in force, the new law will apply to an estimated 8 million criminal proceedings every year across the 28 EU Member States.


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More information:

European Commission – fair trial rights

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:

Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: #VivianeRedingEU

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