Criminal proceedings are daunting for all. However, children are more likely to be overwhelmed by the experience and less likely to participate effectively, seriously undermining their ability to receive a fair trial. In its Impact Assessment on a proposal for measures on special safeguards for children and vulnerable adults suspected or accused in criminal proceedings (hereafter, the Impact Assessment), the European Commission (hereafter, the Commission) noted that children “face a higher risk of discrimination or deprivation of their fundamental rights due to their lack of knowledge, maturity or mental and physical disabilities”.
Despite international and regional standards in this area, the Impact Assessment found that the fair trial rights of 1 million children facing criminal proceedings in the EU each year are not sufficiently guaranteed. A 2014 Commission study examined legislation and policy governing children’s involvement in criminal proceedings across the EU, highlighting the lack of key safeguards for child suspects and defendants in many countries. These include the failure to provide information in a manner specifically adapted to the child’s needs; insufficient protection from lengthy pre-trial detention; limitations on the right to be heard; and the failure to audio-visually record interviews with children.
The European Commission also identified the lack of mandatory specialist training for defence lawyers representing children as a key deficiency in many Member States, including Hungary and Romania. Defence lawyers lack interdisciplinary training (involving, for example, juvenile justice experts -lawyers, judges, prosecutors, NGOs and academics-, social workers and child psychologists) on (a) the international and regional standards which can be used to ensure children enjoy their right to a fair trial, (b) the avenues available for enforcing those standards and (c) the specific skills required to ensure that child suspects and defendants can effectively participate in criminal proceedings. Furthermore, there is an absence of regional networking opportunities through which defence lawyers representing children can exchange knowledge and develop strategic regional responses to systemic challenges facing their clients.
The EU Directive on procedural safeguards for children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings, which may reach its transposition deadline during the project timeframe, and other regional and international standards, including the Council of Europe's child-friendly justice guidelines and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, have the potential to strengthen the safeguards available for child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings, but only if legal professionals are fully equipped to use them in their day-to-day practice.
Regional conference: organisation of a regional conference to ensure that the development of the two main outputs of the project, the toolkit and the training programme, are informed by (a) knowledge of the challenges faced by both child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings and the lawyers who represent them and (b) interdisciplinary expertise on the skills required by defence lawyers when representing children. The conference will provide the opportunity for a wide range of experts (including juvenile justice experts; lawyers, judges, prosecutors, NGOs and academics, as well as social workers and child psychologists) to share examples of good practice and inform the content of the toolkit and training programme. A conference report will be produced as a record of the expert input collaged during the conference.
Toolkit and training programme: the training materials, with both in-person and online components, can be used in a sustainable and replicable way to train lawyers across the EU in the knowledge and skills required effectively to represent child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings. They are based on the perceptions of EU defence practitioners regarding the challenges faced by child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings (including case examples), the challenges which lawyers face in providing effective legal presentation to child suspects and defendants, and the current training opportunities available to them. As well as this, the materials are based on research about existing analysis on the experience of child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings, the perspectives of children on their experiences in criminal proceedings, and existing practice on the training of lawyers in this area.
- Production of the toolkit: to set out relevant international and regional standards, including a guide to the EU Directive, guidance on the practical application of those standards, practical checklists for defence lawyers to use when representing child suspects and defendants, and information on how to access international and regional avenues of redress.
- Production of the in-person training programme: including an agenda, sample slides, case studies, group exercises and assessments are used during the two-day training programme for defence lawyers, including guidance for training providers on effective marketing of the programme, adaptation of the programme to the specific needs in their jurisdiction, and practical tips for the delivery of the programme.
- Production of the online training programme: featuring the materials produced for the in-person trainings, as well as short videos from expert trainers.
Regional training course: the two-day regional training course introduces bar associations from all 28 Member States to the project training materials and encourages them to deliver similar training programmes in their own jurisdictions. Adopting a train-the-trainer model, the two-day course demonstrates to participants how to use and tailor the training materials for future training opportunities. A regional training report will identify any problems with the training materials which can be addressed through further revision, and will develop practical tips on delivering training to be included in the final version of the training materials.
National training courses: country-specific training to 80 lawyers, 40 lawyers in each of Hungary and Romania, will increase their knowledge of relevant international and regional standards and improve their practical skills in order to ensure the effective participation of child suspects and defendants. Country-specific needs will have been identified through research on the challenges faced by child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings and current approaches to the training of defence lawyers on this area of practice, as well as on lawyers' perception on their training needs. The training materials will be adapted to the specific needs in Hungary and Romania, both of which are jurisdictions where defence lawyers currently receive limited training on how to represent effectively child suspects and defendants. A short national training report will be produced on each national training course, identifying any problems with the training materials and setting out practical tips on development and delivery of country-specific training programmes for inclusion in the final version of the training materials.
To increase the capacity of defence lawyers to effectively represent children in criminal proceedings by:
- Identifying practical barriers to the effective participation of child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings which skilled legal representation could address;
- Examining existing practice and engaging interdisciplinary expertise on the training of defence lawyers working with child suspects and defendants;
- Developing and delivering a replicable and interdisciplinary training programme for defence lawyers;
- Enhancing networking opportunities for defence lawyers representing children, through project activities and the existing EU-wide LEAP network.
Increased provision of training for defence lawyers representing child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings by training bar associations and other legal training providers to use the toolkit and replicable training programme to train lawyers across the EU.
Increased capacity of lawyers effectively to represent child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings, by delivering national training workshops which provide lawyers in Hungary and Romania with the skills and confidence to represent children, contributing to an increased availability of such representation.
Stronger networks created between defence lawyers and experts from other relevant disciplines, by providing networking opportunities between defence lawyers, social workers and child psychologists with whom they can work closely to protect the rights of child suspects and defendants; by facilitating the sharing of experience and ideas between and within different Member States; and by contributing to improved juvenile justice expertise within the existing LEAP network.
Increased awareness of the systemic challenges faced in practice by child suspects and defendants and increased capacity of lawyers to use strategic and innovative approaches to tackle them: insights into what lawyers and other experts perceive to be the systemic challenges faced by child suspects and defendants will be gathered through the EU-wide survey, research and during the regional conference. On top of this, the training courses will increase the capacity of defence lawyers to use international and regional standards, including the EU Directive, to address these challenges in higher domestic, regional and international manner.
Strengthened respect for the rights of child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings, by ensuring that defence lawyers are fully equipped to use the new EU Directive, along with other international and regional standards, in strategic and innovative ways in practice to achieve impact.
- A regional conference for 50 participants;
- A toolkit for defence lawyers;
- A training programme, including an in-person training curriculum and online component;
- A regional training course for 50 participants;
- Two national training courses (Hungary and Romania) for a total of 80 participants;
- Two country-specific training programmes, tailored to the specific needs identified in Hungary and Romania.
- Fair Trials International - United Kingdom
- Association for the Protection of Human Rights in Romania (APADOR- CH) – Romania
- Fair Trials Europe (“FTE”) - Belgium
- Hungarian Helsinki Committee (“HHC”) - Hungar
- International Juvenile Justice Observatory (“IJJO”) – Belgiu