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Safeguards for children in criminal proceedings apply across the EU

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Safeguards for children in criminal proceedings apply across the EU

Photo © Volker Hammermeister - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - New rules and guarantees in criminal proceedings apply across the EU from Tuesday, when a directive on special safeguards for children starts to apply.

In addition to these new rights for children, the directive guaranteeing access to legal aid started to apply on 5 May. This package of EU rules ensures that EU citizens' fundamental rights of fair and equal treatment are respected in criminal proceedings and that they are applied in a similar way in all Member States.

"Children deserve special protection in criminal proceedings," said Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova: "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."

The following rights now apply:

  • Special safeguards for children - Every year in the EU, over 1 million children face criminal justice proceedings. Children are vulnerable and need special protection at all stages of the proceedings. With the new rules applying as of today, children should be assisted by a lawyer and detained separately from adults if sent to prison. Privacy must be respected and questioning should be audio-visually recorded or recorded in another appropriate manner.
  • The right to legal aid - If suspected or accused, people have the right to legal aid, that is, financial support for example if they do not have the resources to cover the costs of the proceedings.

The EU rules define clear criteria to grant legal aid. Decisions concerning legal aid must be taken timely and diligently, and people must be informed in writing if their application is rejected in full or in part.

Member States that have not yet implemented the rules must do so as soon as possible. The Commission says it will continue to work closely with Member States to ensure the rules are applied correctly for the benefit of citizens. This can be done including through workshops and expert meetings.

Factsheet – your rights if accused or suspected of criminal offences in the EU

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