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.
1. BRUCE ROBINSON
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.
2. LIAM SULLEN
He is a British national who has been detained
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
6. The video evidence was not shown at the
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.
3. * * * CONFIDENTIAL
4. SPECIAL CONCERN
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 UKwhich he had
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
Priscillia de Corson
15 March 2007