The European Criminal Bar Association (ECBA) is a leading group of independent criminal defence lawyers in the Council of Europe

In the work on the Stockholm Programme and EU ROADMAP for Procedural Safeguards in Criminal Proceedings we will soon come to - Measure E – Special Safeguards for Suspected or Accused persons who are Vulnerable.

In order to meet the work for EU on this subject ECBA has formed a working group: Measure E – Vulnerable Suspects.

The idea is to draft the ECBA Cornerstones of special safeguards for suspected or accused persons who are vulnerable. This would support the political EU decision-makers at EC, EP and the Council of MS to come to appropriate conclusions on how to protect vulnerable suspects in addition to the general rights and safeguards in criminal proceeding.

This ECBA group is chaired jointly by Robin Grey Q.C., UK,  and Bertil Dahl, Sweden, and  consists of 11 practitioners. The group has had its first meeting in London on the 16th of March and plan to present a draft statement to the ECBA Board in the meeting in Istanbul on the 26/27 April 2013.

The definition of Vulnerable Suspects or Accused Persons is central in this work and should be looked upon together with the other measures  A-D and F in order to be included in the Stockholm Programme Safeguards.

Vulnerable persons could be;

  • Children under 18;
  • Drunk people;
  • People under influence of drugs or other addictives;
  • People suffering from mental or physical disabilities;
  • People with mental disorder – in this group we can for example find suspects who are serial confessers of serious crimes who sometimes mislead the legal system.

The work on strengthening the weaker part, such as vulnerable suspects, is in the interest of the legal system itself. It is quite clear that modern criminal proceedings should be based on Equality of Arms. Thus in order to help the weaker part several steps have to be taken.

A modern balanced procedure in criminal matters demand equality of arms in the examination of evidence, etc. To get a fair trial it is obvious that the suspect must be helped, so as not to be at a procedural disadvantage with the prosecutor.