On 28-29 June 2021 we held two successful webinars, which marked the end of the EmpRiSe project.
The webinars, attended by about 100 participants, brought together academics, policy-makers and practitioners to discuss issues around the protection of the right to silence in police interrogations from an interdisciplinary perspective and investigate possibilities for an EU action. The first webinar discussed the national findings on the law and practice around silence in police interrogation in four EU countries: Belgium, Ireland, Italy and the Netherlands. Each of these jurisdictions faces unique challenges with regard to ensuring effective protection of the right to silence in criminal proceedings in law and in practice. However some of the issues are similar, such as for instance: limited disclosure of case-related information to lawyers and suspects at the investigative stage; unclarities around the practice of drawing adverse inferences and probative value attached to silence; and the tendency to attach various kinds of negative consequences to suspects’ silence interpreted as non-cooperation with the investigation and the proceedings (or, conversely, to attach benefits to cooperation).
The second webinar addressed the possible solutions to the issues identified in the national reports, and the action to be taken on the EU level and domestically with the view to ensuring better protection of the right to silence and other procedural rights of suspects in criminal proceedings. Panelists in the second webinar included Dr Fabien Le Bot from the European Commission, Emmanuelle Debouverie from Fair Trials, Dr Dorris de Vocht from Maastricht University and Limburg District Court, Netherlands and Shalom Binchy from Binchy & Co. Solicitors, Ireland. Finally, professor Yvonne Daly presented the experience of the training program for criminal defence lawyers organised by the EmpRiSe project in Ireland.
Participants agreed that legislating with the view to ensuring better protection of the right to remain silent is a perilous task. The right to silence is particularly theoretical, complex and intertwined with other fundamental principles of criminal procedure and procedural rights. Improving disclosure regimes, strengthening the right to legal assistance at the investigative stage, and developing better safeguards around the drawing of adverse inferences and remedies for breaches of the right to silence were named among possible legislative interventions. However, it was noted that improving legislation on the right to silence on the EU and national levels provides only partial solutions, because effective protection of the right depends on the attitudes, cultures, and practices of the respective actors, and primarily judges, prosecutors and police. The centre of gravity of the respective action should rather lie in practical measures such as developing better procedures and methods for interrogating suspects, and providing training aimed inter alia at raising awareness of the respective actors of the importance of the right to silence as a crucial element of the right to a fair trial.
Read here the full report from the two closing webinars.
Watch the recording of the webinar # 1: “Silence is not empty: it is full of answers. Findings from comparative socio-legal research on the meaning and implications of the right to silence in police interrogations”.
Watch the presentation of Dr. Dorris the Vocht at the webinar # 2 “Towards an evidence-based approach to the right to silence in criminal proceedings: debunking myths and taking action.”
Listen to the podcast of the presentation of Professor Yvonne Daly during webinar # 2 about the training programme developed by the EmpRiSe project.