EU Needs to Do More to Close Gaps in Protecting Detainees' Rights

The study finds that despite some action at European level, current legislation on the rights protection of criminal suspects fails to comply with international and EU standards.

"The Cost of Non-Europe in the area of Procedural Rights and Detention Conditions" is a study issued by the European Added Value Unit, a European Parliament body that analyses policy areas where common action at EU level is absent but could bring greater efficiency and a public good for European citizens.

Methodology

This study addresses the issue of procedural rights and detention conditions. It tries to identify gaps and barriers characterising the system, their impact at both an economic and individual level in terms of protecting fundamental rights and freedoms, and the potential costs and benefits of a common European action addressing these gaps and barriers.

This study analyses the European normative framework starting with the 2009 'Roadmap' on the rights of suspects and the directives on interpretation and translation, on the right to information and access to a lawyer, on the presumption of innocence, on the rights of child suspects, but also discussing the Commission green paper on detention conditions and EU judicial cooperation measures such as the European arrest warrant, the European investigation order and the European Supervision Order.

The report is based on comparative studies on member states' legal systems and their implementation of EU law. Moreover, a research paper from RAND Europe annexed to the report tries to quantify the impacts of gaps and barriers in the field.

Main findings

The study highlights how, despite the fact that actions have been taken at European level to build an EU Area of Freedom, Security and Justice and to develop judicial cooperation based on the principle of mutual recognition, European legislation on the rights of persons suspected of having committed a crime is limited to providing common minimum standards, failing to comply with international and EU standards.

The research seeks to focus on some shortcomings concerning the fundamental right to a fair trial, but also on the fact that some areas, such as that of pre-trial detention, have not been addressed, and that the different levels of protection guaranteed lead to discrimination between the same European citizens.

The impact on the individuals involved and on their families of the aforementioned deficiencies within the procedural guarantees of criminal proceedings is primarily of an economic and material nature, although the study also underlines the immaterial damage that can occur to psychological and mental health, especially in the case of vulnerable people. Moreover, RAND has tried to quantify the cost of such gaps, for example regarding pre-trial detention, which is among the leading causes of overcrowding in prisons and in turn has a negative impact on the physical and mental health of prisoners. Looking at the economic costs to the society, on the other hand, it has been estimated that the pre-trial detention has an economic cost of about €1.6 billion per year for EU member states.

Some solutions

Furthermore, the study suggests some options for action and cooperation that could be taken at EU level to address the above-mentioned deficiencies, such as ensuring better compliance with international obligations, the reinforcement of international monitoring mechanisms, a proper implementation and a reviewing of EU legislation, but also adopting new EU legislation.

In conclusion, this report not only gives us an analysis of the cost of non-Europe involvement in the fulfillment of these rights, but also (and above all) shows us the EU’s added value in the field of procedural rights and detention conditions underlining that "further action and cooperation at EU level would lead to better compliance with EU values and rights, would meet the expectations of EU citizenship in the criminal justice area, would improve mutual trust between judicial authorities based on respect for fundamental rights, and finally would result in cost savings for the member states".