An update on a proposed Directive on procedural safeguards for children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings.

On 14 July the European institutions held the fourth trilogue meeting in relation to the proposed Directive 2013/0408(COD) on Procedural Safeguards for Children Suspected or Accused in Criminal Proceedings. This was the first trilogue on the proposed Directive involving the Luxembourg presidency. During the meeting the presidency made it clear that they are committed to finding solutions which take into account the European Parliament’s positions and that they are hopeful of finalising a text by autumn.

The purpose of the proposed legislation is to provide for common minimum standards on procedural safeguards for children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings. It stems from the Stockholm Programme which set out the EU’s priorities for the area of justice, freedom and security and put a strong focus on strengthening the rights of individuals in criminal proceedings.

On 12 February 2015 the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee of the European Parliament issued recommendations to amend the European Commission’s proposed Directive. On 3 September Rapporteur Caterina Chinnici MEP (S&D, Italy) updated the LIBE committee on the progress of discussions at trilogue. According to Chinnici there has been significant agreement with Council on guarantees for defence. This includes agreements on issues including the presumption of minor status where it is difficult to ascertain the age of the suspect, the right to information for the minor, individual interrogation of minors and individual treatment of minors ensuring their individual needs are met. In relation to the right to information, agreement has been reached which allows for adequate disclosure without causing an excessive administrative burden to the authorities. Additionally all parties have agreed that a minor who has been deprived of their liberty should have access to all necessary medical treatment and not just in the case of an emergency.

Chinnici also addressed the areas where a compromise has yet to be found. She highlighted the importance of finding a compromise on specialised training for those involved in juvenile cases and also listed some of the more controversial recommendations in trilogue including the right to assistance by a lawyer and the scope of the Directive.

The Parliament has recommended that the scope of the Directive should be extended to include suspects over 18 years who had allegedly committed the offence prior to reaching the age of 18 but were under the age of 21 at the beginning of the proceedings. Chinnici stated that the discussions on scope focused on whether it should be the beginning or end of the proceedings and also on the types of offences which should be included.