The project, with generous funding from the European Commission, will provide a unique evidence-base about how pre-trial detention (PTD) is being used in practice across the EU in collaboration with Partners from 10 EU countries: Romania (APADOR), Lithuania (Human Rights Monitoring Institute), Ireland (Irish Penal Reform Trust), the Netherlands (Leiden University), the UK (University of Western England), Spain (APDHE), Greece (CECL), Poland (Polish Helsinki Committee), Hungary (Hungarian Helsinki Committee), and Italy (ASF – Lawyers Without Borders). This week, Fair Trials met with the Partners to finalise plans and working practices for the upcoming project.
The partners will gather data on their local PTD decision-making process and the use of alternatives through in-depth surveys of defence practitioners, monitoring detention hearings, reviewing case files, and interviewing prosecutors and judges. In July 2015, each Partner will produce a country-specific report on local use of PTD comparing local practice with international standards and domestic law.
In September 2015, Fair Trials will hold an expert seminar to discuss the information gathered in the local reports in order to identify common problems and share good practice. The seminar will bring together PTD experts from all 28 Member States.
With input from the Partners and Advisory Panel, Fair Trials will produce a major regional report containing a comprehensive analysis of PTD practice and highlighting common themes and differences within the EU. Fair Trials expects the regional report to be launched in March 2016, bringing together policy-makers and PTD experts for a launch event in the European Parliament.
The research project will inform the development of future initiatives aiming to reduce the unnecessary use of PTD within the EU. The project will provide a unique knowledge-base of PTD practices in different Member States and transferable examples of best practice.
In gathering this information, the report will help provide lawyers with practical information on best-practice, and the use of alternatives to PTD. It is hoped that the findings will also help policy-makers, judges, prosecutors and defence lawyers across the EU to build on information on good practice.
The report is part of Fair Trials’ campaign to put fair trials at the heart of EU Justice. Fair Trials International is calling on the EU to stop excessive detention without trial, including requiring EU countries to make more use of alternatives to pre-trial detention when available and not using extradition until a case is ready to go to trial.
In 2011 the European Commission carried out a consultation on detention in the EU, and the responses showed widespread support for action from civil society and member states. The European Parliament has also called for reform of pre-trial detention in the EU, most recently in its report on the European Arrest Warrant, adopted in January 2014 and in its mid-term review of the Stockholm Programme, adopted in March 2014.
This new report is an opportunity to examine local and regional use of pre-trial detention, judicial decision-making, and the use of alternatives. Fair Trials will continue to campaign to end excessive and arbitrary pre-trial detention, using our clients’ shocking first-hand accounts of their detention to highlight the effects it can have. In our major report – published in March 2014 – Stockholm’s Sunset: New horizons for Justice in Europe – the adoption of EU-wide minimum standards on pre-trial detention was highlighted as a key priority for EU justice policy.