Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 33 n° 348

MEPs approve new EU rules extending right to legal aid

Posted by fidest press agency su mercoledì, 5 ottobre 2016

The European Parliament approved on Tuesday new EU rules extending the right to legal aid for citizens suspected or accused of a crime, or named in a European Arrest Warrant. During the negotiations weuropean parliamentith the Council, MEPs ensured that both the right to provisional and ordinary legal aid will be covered, so that persons who cannot afford a lawyer get part or all the costs of their defence and court proceedings paid by the state.The text was adopted by 569 votes to 54, with 54 abstentions.”Although the area of freedom, security and justice is built on the principle of mutual trust of Member States in their respective criminal law systems, differences in the procedural rights of defendants persist. The EU already adopted a directive on access to a lawyer, thus providing a minimum of protection for defendants, but this directive does not deal with the situation in which defendants simply cannot afford paying for a lawyer themselves”, noted Parliament´s rapporteur Dennis de Jong (GUE, NL).“Thus, the directive laying down the minimum requirements for legal aid is essential to provide access to a lawyer for all, irrespective of their income level. By adopting this directive, the Parliament and the Council have therefore taken an important step towards the eradication of class justice within the EU”, he added.Legal aid should be provided at all stages of the criminal process, as Parliament defended. The original Commission´s proposal only envisaged the right to “provisional” legal aid for suspects or accused persons in criminal proceedings who are “deprived of liberty”, only until there is a final decision on their eligibility for legal aid. “Ordinary” legal aid refers to all defence costs, including the cost of a lawyer and court fees, during the whole criminal justice process.The legislation foresees a “means test” to assess whether a person has the economic resources to pay for legal aid. It also includes a “merits test”, designed to determine whether offering legal aid would be in the interest of justice. The latter should assess, for example, the complexity of the case or the seriousness of the offense.Persons named in European Arrest Warrants will also be covered, in both the executing and the issuing member state.The UK and Ireland decided not to take part in this legislation, while Denmark has an “opt out” by default for matters of Justice and Home Affairs.Once the legal text is formally adopted by the Council and following its publication in the Official Journal, member states will have 30 months to transpose it to their national legislation.

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