in Europe

Procedural Rights of Juveniles Suspected or Accused in the European Union

National Research Report / Spain

Esther Fernández Molina. | Rights International Spain / Terre des hommes
File language:
English Spanish

This report has been developed within the framework of “Procedural Rights of Juveniles Suspected or Accused in the EU (PRO-JUS)”, a regional project implemented in 5 EU Member States (Belgium, France, Hungary, Spain and The Netherlands) under the coordination of the Terre des hommes Regional Office for Central and South East Europe based in Hungary in partnership with Defence for Children International (Belgium), Hors La Rue (France), Rights International Spain and Defence for Children International (The Netherlands).

The PRO-JUS project aims to examine the situation of foreign children suspected or accused in criminal proceedings since their extra vulnerability may hamper their enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the three procedural directives of the European Parliament and of the Council (EU directives 2010/64, 2012/13, 2013/48).

This report covers Spain and constitutes one of the 5 national reports developed as part of the PRO-JUS project. The report is the result of a research that has combined desk research, analysis and semi-structured interviews with adult stakeholders and children. Developed according to a common research methodology that was employed in all of the 5 project countries, the report presents the research findings and identifies noteworthy practices as well as recommendations. In line with the aims of the research, the report also discusses the factors that affect and hamper the effective enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the 3 EU directives.

Research findings:

The exercise of the right to interpretation is put at risk because there are no rules governing the registry of translators and interpreters, including what the requirements or qualifications should be to guarantee the quality of service.

Deficiencies exist in the system which prevent the right to interpretation from being fully exercised by children suspected and accused in criminal proceedings. 

There are no clear criteria clarifying when the interpreter should be present - interpreters are absent on many occasions when actually his/her presence would have been necessary.

Professionals have difficulties developing a discourse that children can understand. While professionals have a clear conscience regarding the fact that provided information must be appropriate for the age of the child, in reality they do not construct a discourse on their rights, that children can understand, enabling them to grasp their meaning and scope.

The exercise of the right to access to a lawyer is unduly delayed, with the start of the lawyer’s activity being contingent on the arrival of the legal guardian. 

Problems observed occuring during the trial. At this point, foreign children who have difficulties with the language, and given the impossibility of interpreter appearing anywhere other than official premises, cannot communicate with their lawyers to prepare the defence of the case.

Research noted a deficit of expertise in the group of lawyers who have difficulty identifying what their true role is in these proceedings.


  • Establish a protocol, which clearly defines the criteria for rating the linguistic competence of the detained or accused child, including their level of reading comprehension and possible disabilities and determine, accordingly, when the requirement for an interpreter, or other resources, is necessary;
  • Design and approve a protocol relating to detention of children to allow lawyer to be present immediately after the arrest, putting an end to the practice of not calling lawyers until the interpreter arrives, and ensure lawyers have access to the police report before the juvenile suspect makes a statement;
  • Promote courses for specialization in procedural rights of children, placing special emphasis on communication, the right of defence, immigration law, child friendly justice and the content of the rights of the directives;
  • Provide financial resources and increase staff to ensure the exercise of the right to quality interpretation and translation;
  • Ensure that all professionals that provide services of translation or interpretation in juvenile proceedings are duly trained in the procedural rights of children, as well as in their legal obligations;
  • Establish an effective monitoring framework and complaint mechanisms when translation and/or interpretation services do not meet the legally required quality standards, making it possible, where appropriate, to dismiss those interpreters or translators who receive repeated complaints.