Presumption of innocence is a core right in criminal justice. Yet, prejudice, bias and practices like presenting defendants in handcuffs undermine this right in many European countries, finds the latest report of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). FRA calls on EU countries to respect the rights of all defendants, regardless of their background.
“All defendants have the right to be presumed innocent until an independent court finds them guilty. But our in-built biases, and what we see or read, can affect our perception of guilt,” says FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty. “EU countries need effective measures to safeguard the rights of all defendants to a fair trial and equal access to justice.”
FRA’s report ‘Presumption of innocence and related rights – Professional perspectives’ looks at how EU countries in practice apply the rights to be presumed innocent, to remain silent and to be present at trial. FRA identifies problems in safeguarding these rights and calls on EU countries to:
The report looks at practices in nine EU Member States with different legal traditions: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal.
The findings are based on interviews with 123 defence lawyers, judges, prosecutors, police officers and journalists in those countries.
Today, the European Commission also publishes its implementation report on Directive 2016/343 on the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at the trial in criminal proceedings.
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