EU states protest 'right to an attorney' bill

22nd September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain, Ireland and France are protesting a push to force every EU state to give criminal suspects access to a lawyer through every step of criminal proceedings.

The three nations, along with Belgium and the Netherlands, wrote in a letter released Thursday that the legislation proposed by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, would "hamper" criminal cases.

The bill, to be debated by EU justice ministers in Brussels on Friday, says a lawyer should be present from the first stage of police questioning and throughout criminal proceedings.

The suspect would also have the right to communicate with at least one family member or employer to inform them of the arrest.

Although the five nations admitted that "the right of access to a lawyer is one of the key elements of a defendant's right to a fair trial," they complained that the commission proposal goes too far.

The proposal would cause "substantial difficulties" to investigations, partly because they would require a lawyer in all aspects of a detention, even when the suspect's fingerprints are being taken.

EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding says the goal is to create uniform standards across the 27-nation EU and improve the rights of criminal defendants, notably when they are suspects outside their home country.

© 2011 AFP

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