Beuze v. Belgium [GC] (Application no. 71409/10)

A selection of key paragraph(s) can be found below the document.


123. The right of everyone “charged with a criminal offence” to be effectively defended by a lawyer, guaranteed by Article 6 § 3 (c), is one of the fundamental features of a fair trial (see Salduz, cited above, § 51, and Ibrahim and Others, cited above, § 255).

(α) Starting-point of the right of access to a lawyer

124. Where a person has been taken into custody, the starting-point for the right of access to a lawyer is not in doubt. The right becomes applicable as soon as there is a “criminal charge” within the meaning given to that concept by the Court’s case-law(see paragraph 119 above) and, in particular, from the time of the suspect’s arrest, whether or not that person is interviewed or participates in any other investigative measure during the relevant period (see Simeonovi, cited above, §§ 111, 114 and 121).

(β) Aims pursued by the right of access to a lawyer

125. Access to a lawyer at the pre-trial stage of the proceedings also contributes to the prevention of miscarriages of justice and, above all, to the fulfilment of the aims of Article 6, notably equality of arms between the investigating or prosecuting authorities and the accused (see Salduz, cited above, §§ 53-54; Blokhin, cited above, § 198; Ibrahim and Others, cited above, § 255; and Simeonovi, cited above, § 112).

126. The Court has acknowledged on numerous occasions since the Salduz judgment that prompt access to a lawyer constitutes an important counterweight to the vulnerability of suspects in police custody. Such access is also preventive, as it provides a fundamental safeguard against coercion and ill-treatment of suspects by the police (see Salduz, cited above, § 54; Ibrahim and Others, cited above, § 255; and Simeonovi, cited above, § 112).

127. The Court has also recognised that the vulnerability of suspects may be amplified by increasingly complex legislation on criminal procedure, particularly with regard to the rules governing the gathering and use of evidence (see Salduz, cited above, § 54, and Ibrahim and Others, cited above, § 253).

128. Lastly, one of the lawyer’s main tasks at the police custody and investigation stages is to ensure respect for the right of an accused not to incriminate himself (see Salduz, cited above, § 54; Dvorski, cited above, § 77; and Blokhin, cited above, § 198) and for his right to remain silent.


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