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EU-wide right to information at arrest

A new law to ensure defendants’ right to information during criminal proceedings throughout the European Union has been published in the Official Journal – the EU’s statute book.

The ‘Directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings’ was proposed by the European Commission in July 2010, voted by the European Parliament on 13th December 2011 and agreed by national justice ministers on 27th April 2012.

This law ensures that anyone arrested or subject to a European Arrest Warrant in any EU Member State is given a Letter of Rights listing their basic rights during criminal proceedings. EU Member States now have two years to introduce the new rules in their national legal systems. Currently the right to a Letter of Rights is only available in around one third of Member States.

The Directive on the right to information will ensure that police and prosecutors provide suspects with information about their rights. Following an arrest, authorities will give this information in writing – in the form of a Letter of Rights – drafted in simple, everyday language. It will be provided to suspects upon arrest in all cases, whether they ask for it or not, and it will be translated if needed.

EU countries are free to choose the exact wording of the Letter, but to save work the Commission proposed a model available in 22 EU languages. This will provide consistency for people crossing borders and limit translation costs.