Government: right to a lawyer during police questioning

The police will soon be required to ensure that suspects placed under arrest can request the assistance of a lawyer during police questioning. The suspect’s lawyer will have the opportunity to be present during questioning and take part in it, for instance by asking questions, making observations or requesting a break. These proposals are contained in two bills put forward by Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten and State Secretary for Security and Justice Fred Teeven, which have been approved by the cabinet.

Suspects under arrest already have the right to consult a lawyer prior to police questioning but will now also be entitled to legal assistance during questioning.

The government proposed a bill regulating this matter in 2011. Prompted by the 2013 European directive on the right of access to a lawyer, which must be implemented in Dutch law, the 2011 proposals have now been split into two separate bills. One of the bills includes only the elements necessary for the implementation of the European directive. In addition to the right of access to counsel during police questioning, it will also allow suspects to inform a third party of their choosing about their detention.

The other bill contains additional rules concerning the initial phase of criminal investigations, including arrest procedures, hearings before the assistant public prosecutor, time limits for detaining suspects for questioning, and writing police interviews in official reports. These rules aim to embed the right to legal assistance during police questioning more firmly in the initial phase of criminal investigations.

The content of the two new bills largely corresponds to the original bill proposed by the government.

The cabinet has decided to send both bills to the Council of State for an advisory opinion. The text of the bills and the Council of State’s advisory opinions will be published when they are submitted to the House of Representatives.