ECBA Autumn Conference 2007, Lyon, France

5 and 6 October 2007

“Defending the Defender"

Autumn Conference Programme: "Defending the Defender"

Programme de la Conference de l'ECBA: "Défendre la Défense"



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Click here to view a photo impression from the Cocktail Reception (Salons de l’hôtel de ville) and the Conference



The ECBA’s autumn conference in Lyon provided a welcome opportunity for defence practitioners from around Europe to share experiences on an issue which touches us all on a day to day basis.  Moving away from our recent focus on developments coming from the EU, the Conference focussed on the rights of the defence, particularly in relation to privilege.  Legal professional privilege is a crucial weapon in the armoury of the defence practitioner and its interpretation has considerable impact on the way in which we can represent our clients’ interests and protect our own.  The Conference provided the opportunity to compare the rules as they apply around the European Union and provided a stimulating basis for debate.

Search of the lawyer’s office was a recurrent theme and it was interesting to note that in civil law jurisdictions, the Batonnier of the local Bar has a crucial role to play in the search process. Many speakers pointed out that the law requires that the search should be limited to a specific piece of evidence.  The Batonnier or his representative must be on hand while the police make the search in order to ensure that it does not go further than is technically permissible.  If the police do go further, then the Batonnier objects and it falls to the court to decide on the limits to be observed.  Whilst the presence of the Batonnier is a requirement, speakers from Holland drew attention to the fact that the requirement can be met by the Batonnier sitting in the waiting room of the lawyer’s office while the search is conducted, making a mockery of the requirement.

The most extreme problems in relation to privilege seem to be being experienced by the Dutch Bar which reported that recent changes in national law have extended search powers to lawyers’ offices even when they were not implicated in a crime and that lawyers can now be cited as witnesses against their clients too.

The afternoon session began with a comparative analysis of a case study from the point of view of 4 different jurisdictions.  Debate focussed on issues such as the circumstances in which family members can be compelled to give evidence and the points in the procedure at which the accused can give a statement to the police.  Topically, the restrictions on the McCann family on giving statements to the press while considered as suspects in Portugal was contrasted with the situation which would apply in the UK where a suspect can give statements to the press until the point of being charged with an offence.

One of the highlights of the day was a presentation by Rutsel SJ Martha, legal adviser to Interpol which has its general secretariat in Lyon. Mr Rutsel shed some light on the processes followed by the organisation, particularly the limited scope for challenging an Interpol notice. Examples of valid grounds for challenge were eg.  If the person who was the subject of the notice had in fact been acquitted of the offence to which the notice related, or if the procedures of the court which convicted the person who was the subject of the notice breached human rights rules. 

It was also important to bear in mind that there was a presumption of accuracy and relevance in favour of Interpol placing the burden of proof on the complainant.  Attempts had recently been made to sue Interpol in national courts, but these had proved fruitless as domestic courts do not have jurisdiction over Interpol. 

Business elements of the day aside, the cocktail reception in the fabulous setting of Lyon’s 17th century Hôtel de Ville, and the dinner in the panoramic restaurant of the Hotel Radisson provided a perfect opportunity for participants to catch up friends both old and new.



Different perspectives on the role of the criminal defence lawyer

Privilege and defence rights around Europe: case study on issues around access to clients immediately after arrest

Recent developments and proposed reforms affecting the legal profession in the European Union.