Select Committee on Home Affairs Written Evidence

25.  Supplementary memorandum submitted by Fair Trials Abroad

Case studies supporting adoption of the (Framework Decision on certain procedural rights applying in proceedings in criminal matters throughout the EU

  Fair Trials Abroad has grave concerns that without minimum safeguards, British and other EU nationals lack protection of their most fundamental rights.

  It has been acknowledged by Franco Frattini as recently as February 2007 that gross inconsistencies in the administration of justice across member states make implementation of the principle of mutual recognition of each others' justice systems highly problematic unless suitable and effective common protections are quickly put in place. Therefore, Fair Trials Abroad is very much in favour of the adoption of the Framework Decision on certain procedural rights in criminal matters.

  In our opinion the arguments developed by opponents of the FD are not convincing. Opponents indeed argue that (a) common minimum standards could result in a general lowering of standards, (b) common minimum standards have already been set by the ECHR and no further action is needed and (c) the implementation of this proposal would be difficult.

  There are very large discrepancies in the levels of safeguards in operation in the different Member States. Therefore, the common standards offered by the FD might be considered as low, but would represent a significant step forward.

  The following cases clearly illustrate how British citizens charged with criminal offences abroad are often (and in some Member States, almost systematically) denied their basic fair trials rights.


  Bruce Robinson is a dual citizen of New Zealand and Britain who is currently being held under "temporary arrest" in Katowice, Poland.


  He initially moved to Poland some years ago to take up a position as CEO of Polish Operations of the British-based Expomedia Group plc whose business is the arrangement and management of trade shows and exhibitions. In February 2001, Expomedia purchased 51% of the shares in a company called MTK. Bruce sat on the Board of Directors. MTK's business was organising exhibitions and as part of this, it constructed and rented out buildings. Bruce joined the London office of Expomedia in April 2001 and started working with MTK soon after, when he was appointed Finance Director of Expomedia in Poland.

  On 28 January 2006, one of the buildings owned by MTK was leased for an exhibition. At 5.15 pm the main building collapsed, resulting in the deaths of 65 people and the injury of approximately 170. This tragedy was widely reported. On 21 February 2006 Bruce was arrested along with three architects, another MTK board member and an employee.

  Investigators' reports have confirmed that the building was poorly designed, cheaply built and collapsed due to the weight of snow on its roof. However, neither Expomedia nor its management had any involvement in the design or construction of the building. Bruce had no involvement in the construction of the building and was in Spain at the time of the collapse. Although he had received an email regarding the heavy snowfall in Poland and the problems it was causing for the building, he then received an email from the technical director that everything was fine with the roof. He was not advised of any further problems.

  Upon hearing about the collapse, Bruce immediately returned to Poland to assist the investigators with their enquiries. He was arrested on 21 February 2006 and has consistently been refused bail with no reason given. He has finally been granted conditional bail on 5 March 2007.

Fair trials issues

  1.  When Bruce was interviewed in Katowice on 21 February 2006, his lawyer Grzegorz Slyszyk was not permitted to represent him for much of the interview.

  2.  Mr Slyszyk was again not permitted to attend the court hearing held on 23 February 2006 regarding an application of preliminary detention filed by the district prosecutor. He therefore had to instruct another lawyer to represent Bruce on this occasion. This lawyer, Joachim Rassek, was not allowed to speak with Mr Robinson before the hearing so Mr Rassek was unable to take his client's instructions or to even tell Bruce that he was representing him on a temporary basis.

  3.  Interpretation and translation of Polish have so far been of poor quality. The translation of fundamental documents has been incorrect and misleading. The decision regarding preliminary detention was only provided in Polish with the translation being provided a month later. Other translated documents have been provided with two to four month delays.

  4.  On 23 February 2006, Bruce was told to sign the decision on the application of preliminary detention which was only provided in Polish. He signed this with the addition, "I'm signing that I have received this paper but I am not able to understand what it says."

  5.  Neither Bruce nor his lawyer has been given access to the case file so they are unaware what the evidence against Bruce is.


  He is a British national who has been detained in Denmark.


  Liam Bullen, a British national who never had been in any trouble, chose to make his life in Denmark. His home, work and close friends are all there, and he has made every effort to integrate into Danish life and society.

  In July 2002, Liam went for a night out at a nightclub. He remembers dancing, then waking up in the street bleeding from an injury to his head. As well as the cut on the top of his head which needed stitches, Liam had a number of abrasions on his face and elsewhere, overall 21 further injuries. He called for an ambulance, then passed out once more. He was first interviewed by police during a medical examination in hospital.

  When he woke up again, he was in a police cell. Liam was charged with attempted rape. Due to the head injury, Liam has no memory of what happened between him being at the club and waking up in the street about 10 minutes later. However, the police repeatedly told him he had committed a crime and he himself began to be in doubt of what had actually happened during the year it took for the case to come to court. During that year he made no attempt to flee the country, continuing to work hard up until the day of the trial.

  As the trial progressed, the evidence presented finally convinced Liam that he was innocent of the charges. The prosecution case included evidence that Liam's blood was found on the alleged victim and that a person fitting his description was seen walking slowly away from the area of the alleged crime. However, DNA evidence found that sperm in the complainant's underwear was not Liam's. The girl had no injuries, nor was anything found under her fingernails or anywhere else on her body that linked her to Liam.

Fair trials issues

  1.  Liam was first questioned while still under medical examination, suffering from a serious head wound.

  2.  He was not given access to legal representation when he was questioned.

  3.  He was not informed as to his legal rights.

  4.  He was not allowed to read through these statements, he supposedly made during the interview at the hospital to correct them for any inaccuracies.

  5.  Conclusively he did not sign these alleged statements.

  6.  The video evidence was not shown at the trial.

  7.  The interpreter did not arrive until two hours after the trial started.

  8.  The interpreter had neither Danish nor English as his mother tongue.

  9.  The legal aid lawyer did not question any prosecution evidence or cross examined the witnesses.

  10.  Not all the evidence was available at the time of the trial.

  11.  The police never made an attempt to find out who had injured Liam or looked for the weapon.



  There is a huge concern about the fate of lorry drivers engaged in international haulage who are used, without their knowledge, to smuggle illegal goods.

  Lorry drivers are particularly vulnerable because they constantly cross national borders and they carry out instructions from their employers, acting on blind trust; they collect vast quantities of goods, pre-packed and sealed by unknown third parties; they are unable to make detailed inspections of their loads; they deliver to unknown third parties.

  Thus, British man David Stephenson was arrested upon discovery of a large amount of cannabis in a trailer he was delivering on run between Calais and the UK—which he had not accessed.

  During detention, David was not provided translation or legal assistance and therefore signed a document in French in which he unwittingly agreed to a fast-track trial, not knowing the consequences. Three days later, he was taken to court under French fast-track procedures. Half an hour later, he had been sentenced to two years' custody and the 381,000 euros fine. No investigation had taken place, no defence evidence was presented (in particular, the tachograph evidence which later exonerated him was not considered by the court).

  Had the minimum procedural safeguards been in place, we are confident that cases like these would become thankfully rarer.

Priscillia de Corson

15 March 2007

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