On 16 December 2015, the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) approved a compromise text agreed with the European Parliament on a directive on procedural safeguards for children in criminal proceedings.
The purpose of the directive is to provide procedural safeguards for children (meaning persons below 18) who are suspected or accused of having committed a criminal offence. The directive will provide additional safeguards to those that already apply to suspects and accused adults.
Félix Braz, Luxembourg Minister for Justice and President of the Council said: "The agreement reached with the European Parliament is an important step forward for the European judicial area. This is the first binding instrument in this area and is a real breakthrough, particularly as regards the assistance of children by a lawyer. The new directive will contribute to enhancing mutual trust between the judicial systems of the Union."
A core provision of the directive relates to the assistance by a lawyer. Member states should make sure that the child is assisted by a lawyer, where necessary by providing legal aid. Other important provisions of the directive concern the provision of information on rights, the right to have an individual assessment, the right to a medical examination, and the right to audio-visual recording of questioning. It also provides special safeguards for children during deprivation of liberty, in particular during detention.
The text of the directive will now be revised by legal-linguists, and will subsequently be submitted to the plenary of the European Parliament and to the Council for adoption.
Since 2009, the work in the European Union on strengthening procedural rights for suspects and accused persons in criminal proceedings has been carried out on the basis of the roadmap, which was adopted by the Council on 30 November 2009. The roadmap sets out a gradual approach towards establishing a full catalogue of procedural rights for suspects and accused persons in criminal proceedings. The European Council has made the roadmap part of the Stockholm programme, in which explicit reference was made to a measure on the presumption of innocence.
Three directives have already been adopted on the basis of the roadmap: Directive 2010/64/EU on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings, Directive 2012/13/EU on the right to information in criminal proceedings, and Directive 2013/48/EU on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and in European arrest warrant proceedings, and on the right to have a third party informed upon deprivation of liberty and to communicate with third persons and with consular authorities while deprived of liberty. Recently, another directive has been agreed, on the presumption of innocence.