Advancing defence rights for children

Wednesday - 29 March 2017
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This is a project funded by the European Commission, coordinated by Fair Trials International and benefiting from the input of 4 partner organisations: APADOR-CH, Fair Trials Europe (FTE), Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC) and International Juvenile Observatory, Belgium (IJJO).

Its implementation period is January 2017-December 2018.

Fair Trials and its partners have supported the development of the EU directive on procedural safeguards for children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings (EU Directive 2016/800) which may reach its transposition deadline during the project timeframe.

The reason for adopting the “Children’ Rights Directive”:

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.

Other problematic aspects when it comes to defence rights for children:

The 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

  • the international and regional standards which can be used to ensure children enjoy their right to a fair trial,
  •  the avenues available for enforcing those standards
  •  the specific skills required to ensure that child suspects and defendants can effectively participate in criminal proceedings. Further, 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.

Projects’ objectives

The overall objective of the project is to increase the capacity of defence lawyers effectively to represent children in criminal proceedings by:

a) Identifying practical barriers to the effective participation of child suspects and defendants in criminal proceedings which skilled legal representation could address;

b) Examining existing practice and engaging interdisciplinary expertise on the training of defence lawyers working with child suspects and defendants;

c) Developing and delivering a replicable and interdisciplinary training programme for defence lawyers which covers international and regional standards as well as the specific skills required for effective legal representation of child suspects and defendants;

d) Enhancing networking opportunities for defence lawyers representing children, through project activities and membership of the existing EU-wide LEAP network of criminal justice experts, coordinated by Fair Trials Europe.


Project results:

Children Directive Toolkit Training Manual Manual for Trainers International and European standards in juvenile justice Communicating with Children’ Group Exercises & scenario