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VW (Droit d’accès à un avocat en cas de non-comparution)

On 12 March 2020, the Second Chamber of the Court delivered its judgment in Case C-659/18, which concerns the interpretation of Directive 2013/48/EU on the right of access to a lawyer. The request for a preliminary ruling comes from a Spanish court and concerns a case of a person, VW, who is suspected of a criminal offence and, despite being summoned by the competent Spanish court to be heard, did not appear before such court. The several attempts to summon him were unsuccessful since his whereabouts were unknown. A few months later, an arrest warrant was therefore issued for him to be brought before the court. A lawyer subsequently sought to enter an appearance in the proceedings on behalf of VW, showing her appointment by VW. According to Spanish legislation as interpreted by national courts, however, once a person does not appear when first summoned, his or her right of access to a lawyer can be denied until that person is arrested and heard by the court. The referring court thus queries whether such legislation is compatible with Article 47 of the Charter and Article 3(2) of Directive 2013/48 on the right of access to a lawyer.

Along the lines of the AG's Opinion, the Court replies in the negative and concludes as follows: "Directive 2013/48/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 on the right of access to a lawyer in criminal proceedings and in European arrest warrant proceedings, and on the right to have a third party informed upon deprivation of liberty and to communicate with third persons and with consular authorities while deprived of liberty, and in particular Article 3(2) thereof, read in the light of Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, must be interpreted as precluding national legislation, as interpreted by national case-law, according to which the exercise of the right of access to a lawyer may, at the pre-trial stage, be delayed because the suspect or accused person has failed to appear following a summons to appear before an investigating judge until the national arrest warrant issued against the person concerned has been executed".

Case Number C-659/18

Name of the parties VW

Date of the judgement 2020-03-12

Court Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

Uploads CL_AG_VW_2019 and CL_VW_2020