EU Citizens Win Right to Interpretation

The European Parliament has today adopted a new law to ensure anyone facing charges in an EU country is given access to an interpreter and translation of documents. The directive was adopted by the European Parliament today by 637 votes to 21, with 19 abstentions.

The costs of implementing this directive will be covered by the Member States, irrespective of the outcome of the proceedings. EU Special rapporteur Sarah Ludford said:

“Cutting corners on costs is not best value since if you get a poor court decision or bad police practice, then people are going to appeal.”

Member States will have three years to transpose the directive. The UK and Ireland have opted into this legislation but Denmark has not.

The report on the draft directive recognised that:

Implementation of the principle of mutual recognition of decisions in criminal matters presupposes that Member States have trust in each other’s criminal justice systems. The extent of the mutual recognition exercise is very much dependent on a number of parameters, which include mechanisms for safeguarding the rights of suspects and common minimum standards…

The problems arising from inadequate criminal proceedings within the EU has been much publicised by Fair Trials International, who oppose the European Arrest Warrant on the grounds that some EU member states have insufficient guarantees of a fair trial when compared with Britain.

Jago Russell, Chief Executive of Fair Trials International, said:

“We are delighted that a Directive guaranteeing this key fair trial right has finally been adopted. For too long people charged with offences in other European countries have been denied a fair trial because they could not understand the charges or the evidence against them.

We urge the European Parliament to continue its work to put fundamental rights at the heart of European justice policy and press on with other measures to protect key fair trial rights, such as access to a lawyer.”

It is hoped that further harmonisation among the legal systems of the EU will not only allow for speedy accosting of suspects, but that innocent EU citizens charged outside of their own country will have a greater chance of receiving fair treatment.

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