The Italian Implementation of the EU Directives on Procedural Safeguards for Accused Persons in Criminal Proceedings

The Cross-Justice research project

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This essay was developed during a 30-month research project funded by the EU Commission - CrossJustice (, conducted under the supervision of the University of Bologna. The aim of the project is to verify the level of implementation of the six directives on the rights of the accused adopted since 2009 under the Stockholm Program. The research critically examines the rights of the defendant as recognised and protected by Directive 2010/64/EU of 20 October 2010 on the right to interpretation and translation; Directive 2012/13/EU of 22 May 2012 on the right to information; Directive 2013/48/EU on the right of access to a lawyer and to have a third party informed; Directive 2016/343/EU of 9 March 2016 on the presumption of innocence and the right to be present at trial; Directive 2016/800/EU on procedural safeguards for juvenile defendants; Directive 2016/1919/EU of 26 October 2016 on legal aid.

The researchers combined two different methodologies, examining the matter both from a traditional perspective conducted by scholars specialized in EU law and national criminal procedure law, and from a new computational analysis. Under the latter approach, the research developed a semi-automated AI platform, to better highlight uncovered deficits of the normative texts, and to enhance comparative analysis among the legal systems (freely accessible at

The current contribution focuses - using a traditional method - on the way in which the Italian legislator has transposed and implemented the aforementioned directives, both with reference to the normative provisions and in the judicial interpretation of the system's apex courts. Indeed, whereas the EU acquis establishes common minimum standards on criminal procedural rights, the need to promote their effective and coherent application remains particularly pressing due to the highly fragmented national legislation, and relevant case-law. In general terms, the picture that emerges shows some strengths of the Italian system, with particular reference to the right to a defence counsel, the right to information and disclosure (and, to a less uniform extent, the rules of evidentiary exclusion when it comes to protecting breaches of defence safeguards).

However, there are also some critical points, often linked to practice (e.g. the necessary training that defenders of vulnerable defendants should receive, legal aid, the quality and effectiveness of the right to an interpreter and the tradition of acts).

This analysis of the Italian system, together with the one developed for the other 10 EU Member States involved in the project (Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden) and the results of the semantic analysis of legal texts, based on Artificial Intelligence techniques, allowed to develop an innovative research in methods and contents, which, in addition to the Crossjustice platform, has also been recently published in a volume published by Brill (Giuseppe Contissa, Giulia Lasagni, Michele Caianiello, Giovanni Sartor (eds. ), Effective Protection of the Rights of the Accused in the EU Directives. A Computable Approach to Criminal Procedure Law, 2022).