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Language rights in court mean good justice, not cheap justice


14 Jun 2010


Languages & Culture

The European Parliament in Strasbourg is expected on Wednesday 16 June to pass landmark legislation giving all EU citizens rights to interpretation and translation when they are questioned by police or tried in another EU country where they do not speak the language. The directive can then pass into EU law as it has already been approved by EU governments in the Council of Ministers. Prior to Wednesday's parliamentary vote, MEPs will debate the legislation on Monday evening (14 June).

Sarah Ludford MEP (UK, Liberal Democrat) the European Parliament's rapporteur who conducted the negotiations with the ‘rotating’ Spanish Presidency, said:

“This is a double first and a genuinely historic event. It is the first – and overdue – EU measure on fair trial rights to go alongside the European Arrest Warrant and also the first EU criminal justice legislation to be negotiated under ‘co-decision’ with MEPs rather than decided by national ministers alone.”

“As more people cross borders under EU free movement rights, there are unacceptable miscarriages of justice due to inadequate defence safeguards, including lack of proper language provision.”

“Member States are worried about cost, but cheap justice is expensive in appeals, failure to convict and loss of reputation. If we really want to catch criminals we need good justice through Rolls-Royce not Rambo prosecutions.”


Notes to editors

Sarah Ludford, a patron of legal NGO Fair Trials International, has been active over the last decade on many cases of denial of proper defence and trial rights, including failures to provide proper language services.

The UK (and Ireland) are both choosing to opt in to this measure, which this has the support of the full complement of 26 EU states (Denmark does not take part in any EU criminal justice initiatives).

The Directive will mean that when a suspect is arrested or taken to court in an EU country where he does not speak the local language he will for the first time under EU law have the right to good quality interpretation in all questioning, hearings and key meeting with lawyers and to translation of all essential documents.

For more information, please contact:

Neil Corlett: +33-3-88 17 41 67 or +32-478-78 22 84


Euan Roddin: +33-3-88 17 24 31 or +32-475-59 13 74