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.