Do defendants with no legal background understand their rights in criminal procedure? Do they know that they have the right to remain silent? Are they aware of what remaining in silence means in practice?
In the framework of the project titled “Accessible Letters of Rights in Europe”, funded by the European Union and launched in 2015, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee undertook a sociolinguistic survey to test whether the official Hungarian Letter of Rights was “simple and accessible” for non-lawyers. Working with experts of law, plain language and sociology, the HHC developed a series of control questions to assess the extent to which people understood the Letter of Rights, and performed a survey with 200 persons. Half of the participants were given information on their rights orally, as happens in in Hungary at the beginning of interrogations, while the other half of the participants were given information in writing as happens when defendants are detained. (For the purposes of the survey, we combined all information provided for defendants, i.e. the texts of both the oral and the written information that defendants receive in the course of an actual Hungarian criminal procedure by any authority – this combined text will be referred to as “Letter of Rights” or LoR throughout the present report.) Subsequently, the participants were asked questions, aiming to check whether and to what extent they had understood the information given to them and whether they were aware of their procedural rights as included in Directive 2012/13/EU.
Drawing on information from the survey and on the indicative model Letter of Rights included in Directive2012/13/EU, the HHC prepared an alternative Letter of Rights (hereafter: alternative Letter of Rights or alternative LoR), and re-run the survey with another 100 persons to test whether the language of the alternative Letter of Rights was more accessible.
The research report is available here.
Accessible Letter of Rights in Europe
A project led by the Hungarian Helsinki Committee and
funded by the European Union