Opinion: the Coalition Government is protecting fair trial rights in Europe

The Coalition Government has today announced that it will take part in EU legislation on the right to information in criminal proceedings. The so-called “Letter of Rights”. This is one of a number of steps in the “Roadmap” designed to protect individual rights and raise fair trial standards in Europe. It is a much needed counter-balance to the powers police and prosecutors have when working across-borders.

This Letter of Rights is designed to be a short, standard written statement of basic rights given to a suspect when they are arrested and, importantly, before they are questioned. It is closely modelled on the system in place in England and Wales today. Having information on your rights leads to better protection and respect for those rights. This letter will be written in plain, simple terms and translated if necessary. It will offer help and assistance for those who find themselves in trouble abroad giving them information on their right to consult a lawyer or have interpretation if needed.

It is a clear sign of how the Liberal Democrat commitment to civil liberties is taking shape in this government. The Labour government refused to back such a move previously.

In the area of police and crime policy the UK Government has a choice whether to be bound by legislation in this area or not. Clear criteria set out in the Coalition Agreement for signing up to EU legislation in relation to criminal law include protecting Britain’s civil liberties.

The right decision has been made.

Julia Bateman stood as PPC for Gedling in the 2010 General Election.

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7 Comments

  • It certainly seems like a good idea for the rights of the citizen to be at the heart of criminal proceedings. As always the devil may well lie in the detail.

    It is essential that people know their rights before being questioned as in many cases it creates untold further problems later in the process if people do not get adequate legal advice etc.

  • “This Letter of Rights is designed to be a short, standard written statement of basic rights given to a suspect when they are arrested and, importantly, before they are questioned. ”

    How is this consistent with our desire to reduce police red tape? It sounds like police officers will have to carry standard copies of this to give to people.

  • Hywel – reducing red tape was not a massive priority for us. Red tape, stop and search forms are all vitally important for holding police to account.

    Chris, I agree, though it is not identical to Labour’s, requires ISPs rather than the government to hold data, and police would require a warrant to check the info. Having said that – I agree, and it would be good to see an MP object ot this now.

  • Julia Bateman 25th Oct '10 - 10:48pm

    Re red tape – we already have a “Notice of Rights and Entitlements” in England and Wales which sets out a person’s rights and entitlements while in police detention. This is translated into 43 languages at the moment. So this adds no extra burden. It will however sets standards in other EU Member States to have such a system and help protect Brits (and others) abroad.

  • vince thurnell 26th Oct '10 - 6:28am

    I’d of thought a right to representation should play a big part in peoples civil liberties, so how does reducing legal aid fall into having a fair trial ?.

  • Sounds like an excellent, common sense measure – another reason for supporting the EU :)

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