ECBA Spring Conference 2005, Lisbon, Portugal

Friday 29 - 30 April 2005

Theme: "Taking Liberties - current issues on European criminal law".



The ECBA spring conference held in Lisbon on 29 and 30 April 2005 was entitled "Taking Liberties - current issues on European criminal law". It contained a programme covering the latest developments in EU criminal justice and an impressive list of speakers from throughout the European Union and, in particular, from Portugal as our host for the conference and from Spain as their nearest neighbour.

His Excellency, President of the Supreme Court of Justice, Juiz Conselheiro, Dr. José Moura Numes de Cruz opened the conference with an overview of the increasing influence of European law in the area of Justice and Home Affairs, in particular due to common responses to terrorism and organised crime. He congratulated the ECBA for being the organisation representing the interests of justice and promoting rights for the accused and suspect persons in this continuing programme.

Han Jahae, Chairman of the ECBA thanked all the Portuguese delegates for the welcome the Association had received and reminisced about differences in the practices and procedures between the first time he visited Portugal on a mutual assistance case and today. He also provided the delegates with an overview of the work that has been conducted by the ECBA Committee, since our conference in Maastricht.

Julia Bateman from the Law Society of England and Wales Brussels office then provided an overview of current and future priorities in the area of criminal justice under the Hague programme and during the UK presidency. A summary of her presentation can be found on the website (For all contributions received in written please choose from the menu on your left).

The ECBA Legal and Development Committee provided an assessment of the Eurobail proposal. Taru Spronken also gave an update on the Eurowarrant project, and the ECBA priority to set up a network of criminal lawyers. An expert meeting is scheduled for 25 and 26 November 2005 and anyone who would like to participate in the project should contact Taru at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Full details of the programme can be found at

Two new ECBA projects were launched at the conference, the first a Working Group on Cross-border Financial Crime with the aim to collate and share information and experiences of financial crime cases with a cross-border element between interested defence practitioners. Qualifications to be a member of the working group are simply to be an ECBA member and to have an interest in this topic. Further details of the working group can be found on the website, section PROJECTS or information can be obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The second project arose from a workshop at the Maastricht conference which identified a need for information about the availability and use of experts in criminal defence. In some jurisdictions there is a wealth of experts in a number of fields and criminal defence practitioners have valuable experience and knowledge in instructing experts. In other jurisdictions the use of experts by the defence was almost non existent. The ECBA expert witness project aims to collate names of expert witnesses and areas of expertise to be put onto a database accessible to ECBA members. This is not intended to be an ECBA approved expert list, but a facility where practitioners are able to share expert witness details and provide information on that expert. In order to make this project a success we need support from all our members. For those who are interested in either providing information for the database or to assist in the set up the project, please could you contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Once again we were delighted to hear from Caroline Morgan, European Commission - Criminal Justice Unit - DG-Justice and Home Affairs who gave an update on the negotiations on the draft framework decision on certain procedural rights and safeguards. Her concern was that at least one of the Member States may veto the framework decision and there is still a body of opinion that the European Commission does not have the competence to legislate in this area. If the European Constitution Treaty is ratified, the change to qualified majority voting and the clear jurisdiction of the EU to legislate in this area may resolve these difficulties, however the problem is protecting the rights of the accused in the interim period. The European Commission are also soon to issue green papers on the presumption of innocence and on gathering and handling of evidence and issues of admissibility. The ECBA has continued to develop relations with the European Commission and will endeavour to assist and participate in the debate for this crucial area of legislation.

Roberto Pisano, member of the ECBA Advisory Committee, then chaired a panel discussion on "Taking Liberties - anti terrorism laws post 9-11 and Madrid". The panel speakers were Rogelio Alonso (Spain), Ernesto Díaz-Bastien (Spain), James MacGuill (Ireland) and Michael Rosenthal (Germany). Presentations are available on the website.

In the afternoon the second panel discussion was entitled "Money Laundering and the Legal Profession" and discussed and considered recent experiences of the money laundering regime, challenges and the future for criminal practitioners in Europe.
The panel was chaired by ECBA Vice-Chairman Dr. Kai Hart-Hoenig (Germany) with the panel consisting of Jaime Alonso Gallo (Spain), Gareth Rees QC (England),
Dr. Carlos Pinto de Abreu (Portugal) and Wojchiech Hermelinski (Poland). Presentations are available on the website.

National delegate reports were provided by Peter Engels (Belgium), Robin Grey (England and Wales), Olivier Gutkes (France), Dr Kai Hart-Hoenig (Germany), Peter Van der Kruijs (The Netherlands), Patrick O'Reilly (Ireland), Roberto Pisano (Italy), George Gebbie (Scotland), Jaime Alonso Gallo (Spain) and Stefan Kirsch (regarding the international criminal tribunals).

We were honoured to welcome Dr. Rogério Alves, President of the Portuguese Bar Association, to give the conference closing speech. He congratulated the ECBA on its work and emphasised the importance of the work conducted by criminal defence practitioners in assisting individuals who are under threat. He has been working with international organisations in collaboration with colleagues from South America, Spain and the ICC trying to provide better defence practices. It is essential that an individual can choose their lawyer and that lawyer to have a sufficient budget in order to present a good defence. In an era where everyone has become obsessed with security, lawyers should be at the forefront of the campaign to protect the rights of the individual. Following Portugal's revolution 31 years ago, they became a democracy which has involved developing rules to protect defendants and victims, however there is still a long way to go. Media reporting is a big problem in Portugal as the press does not respect the presumption of innocence. It is essential to inform European citizens that criminal codes are not just for criminals but to protect all individuals from the powers of the state, powers that can imprison or restrict us or freeze our assets. Therefore it is essential on all democracies for human rights to be preserved and safeguards to ensure suspects cannot be detained forever awaiting trial. It is essential in a true democracy to fight to protect human rights and to protect our duty as lawyers to properly defend individuals.

In the evening there was a wonderful dinner at the spectacular location of Estufa Real restaurant in the botanical gardens. It was a pleasure to conclude the conference in such beautiful surroundings. However, the overwhelming message from the conference, was that the current climate has produced an environment where it is acceptable for democratic powers to take away liberties from individuals and to take liberties with some of the core legal principles that enshrine the civil liberties and human rights of European citizens. The ECBA will continue to represent the rights of the accused and suspected person in Europe and encourage all members to get involved in the various ECBA projects and to encourage their colleagues to join the association.

Finally, the ECBA is indebted to Rita Albuquerque Bettencourt and her firm, Coelho Ribeiro e Associados, Sociedade Civil de Advogados who spent so much time and effort in organising the Lisbon conference and helped make it such a success.