The EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) looks at the practical implementation of the presumption of innocence in criminal proceedings, and related rights, in nine EU Member States. The report is based on interviews with over 120 defence lawyers, judges, prosecutors, police officers and journalists in these nine countries, covering broad ground in terms of both geography and legal traditions. They show that practical implementation varies – and underline that the presumption of innocence can be undermined in myriad ways.
FRA’s opinion on the public references to guilt states that Member States need to take appropriate measures, such as the development and adoption of guidelines about the manner in which the suspect or accused is presented in the media, in order to avoid practices that increase or decrease the public perceptions of guilt. FRA stressed that “While respecting freedom of the press, Member States should establish precise rules on public authorities communicating with the media about ongoing criminal cases with respect to the presumption of innocence.” According to FRA’s recommendations, the full range of participants in the criminal proceedings, including law enforcement officers, lawyers, witnesses and victims, should be subject to regulations, in order to prohibit and prevent the information leaks during ongoing investigations, for instance, regarding the personal data and private lives of suspects and accused.
Read the full report and related opinions here.