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Access to lawyers before police questioning essential
Anyone suspected or accused of a criminal offence in the EU should have the right to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible, and before police questioning starts, the European Parliament's civil liberties committee has said in amendments to a draft directive.
The new rules should apply as soon as a person is declared a suspect or charged, whether or not he or she is under arrest. The aim is to provide the same rights to a defence and a fair trial under member states' laws across the EU.
MEPs want EU countries to ensure that all suspects or accused persons are given access to a lawyer as soon as possible, and at the latest before questioning by the police or a judge begins. They say the lawyer should play an active role during the questioning (by making statements or requesting clarifications) and should be able to check the conditions of detention. He or she should also be able to present any evidence linked to the charges or request the police to gather it, the civil liberties committee adds.
There are over eight million criminal proceedings in the EU every year. The directive on access to a lawyer and communication upon arrest is the third step in a series of measures to set common EU standards on procedural rights. The first law, adopted by Parliament in June 2010, gave EU citizens facing criminal trials the right to translation and interpretation. The second measure, approved by the EP in December 2011, introduced a "letter of rights" to ensure fair trials across the EU.
The UK, Ireland and Denmark will opt out of this directive.
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