In context

European Council adopts the Directive on access to counsel in criminal proceedings

December 9, 2013
In context

The European Council has adopted the Directive on access to counsel in criminal proceedings. This Directive sets out the conditions under which a suspect may have access to counsel and outlines who can effectively participate during client questioning by the authorities.

After a ten-year discussion, the European Council has adopted the Directive on access to counsel in criminal proceedings. This is a historic decision, since the adoption of this measure was uncertain for a long time given its politically sensitive nature.


The Directive contains certain provisions on the right of the suspect or the accused to inform a third party when he is deprived of his liberty. This Directive also lays down the principle of confidentiality of communications between the suspect or the accused and respective counsel. Such communications include meetings, correspondence, telephone conversations and other forms of communication that are allowed under the national laws of the member states.


The Directive grants suspects or accused persons the right of access to counsel without delay and before being questioned by the authorities, upon an investigative or evidence-gathering act, after being deprived of their liberty, or when appearing in criminal proceedings.


The right to access counsel allows counsel to actively and effectively participate during the questioning of their clients by the authorities. It is left to the member states to regulate how counsel can participate actively and effectively during police questioning.


The Dutch government is currently developing an act that would incorporate into the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure the right of the suspect to have access to counsel at an earlier stage than is currently the case. The proposed act provides the suspect charged with a criminal offence the right to receive legal aid, in the form of a meeting with counsel, prior to police interrogation. Furthermore, the proposed draft of this act allows counsel to assist their clients during police questioning in cases where the alleged offence is punishable by six years’ imprisonment or more. Public consultation will begin in January 2014

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