The EU’s directive on special safeguards for children in criminal justice proceedings came into force yesterday, 11 June.
The new directive is one of six directives shoring up the procedural rights of EU residents involved in criminal investigations and prosecutions. The package, which covers defendants’ rights to the presumption of innocence, legal representation, information, interpretation facilities and legal aid, is designed to safeguard citizens’ fundamental rights to fair and equal treatment under EU law.
Frans Timmermans, First-Vice President in charge of the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, said: “Every year, 9 million people are involved in criminal proceedings in Europe. A well-functioning rule of law must ensure that every European can depend on getting a fair and equal treatment before the law. We need to continue to defend and nourish our rule of law so as to foster unwavering faith in our justice systems and their ability to protect all our citizens and our societies.”
More than a million children each year are subject to criminal proceedings across the EU; and the directive on special safeguards for children is designed to factor in the vulnerability and special needs of child defendants. The directive includes provisions enshrining the right of children to the assistance of a lawyer, the right to be detained in separate facilities to adult offenders; and the right to privacy, with the option where relevant to provide audiovisually recorded evidence.
Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová said: “Children deserve special protection in criminal proceedings. With the new rules, we ensure that their privacy is respected or they are detained separately from adults. In addition, everyone in the EU can now be sure to have access to legal aid if they need it. While justice must be done, we must also ensure it is being done in full respect of our fundamental rights and values.”