defending rights and civil liberties

Juveniles and procedural rights

Regional Comparative Report

The three Directives have been or are in the process of being transposed into national law in all five countries. In many cases, the rights in question already exist in national laws and have been reaffirmed or refined by the application of theDirectives. Therefore integration into national law is not the issue for the most part; the critical question is the extent to which these provisions are being applied in practice. The three Directives are interconnected in the sense that Directive 2010/64/EU on interpretation needs to be applied for the other two Directives on rights to information (2012/13/EU) and lawyers (2013/48/EU) to have meaningful effect.

The overall picture to emerge from this research is that the procedural rights in question are observed in a formal sense but challenges remain in implementation. The lack of assured access to quality interpretation is a key impediment to foreign children in terms of their ability to exercise other important rights. Poor or absent interpretation can have a very real impact on the lives of foreign children who are accused or suspected of crimes if they are unable to convey a proper defence or have a fair trial. The study found disturbing cases of foreign children who were not assisted by interpreters, could not explain anything about their circumstances or their age, and ended up being wrongly confined to adult prisons for months at a time. On the other hand, a failure to provide adequate interpretation may also undermine the effective prosecution of a case and undermine the rights of other parties involved. It is therefore in the interests of a fair and efficient criminal justice system that the procedural rights contained in the Directives are observed. The task of assuring proper interpretation support at any point in time across all EU countries is a formidable one given the almost limitless permutations that may arise from trying to match up foreign children speaking any number of the world’s languages and dialects with interpreters who are able to speak the language of the child as well as the country in which the criminal procedure is taking place to a sufficiently high level to ensure a fair process. The challenge is considerable and further exacerbated by the lack of adequate financial and human resources needed to meet these needs. While the Directives assert important and essential rights, and this study identifies critical gaps in provision, the key conundrum facing practitioners and policy-makers is what strategies and methodologies can be devised that are manageable, proportionate and realistic and yet able to meet the needs on the ground.