Vulnerability Assessment of Participants in Lithuanian Criminal Proceedings in the Context of EU Regulations
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Despite the applicable general principles and essential standards provided for in the law, the right of vulnerable persons (i.e. children under 18 years of age and vulnerable adults, for example, adults with mental disabilities) to a fair hearing at different stages of criminal proceedings in the EU is not yet ensured to the full extent. Based on both EU and Lithuanian legal regulation, this article will review only the principal provisions concerning the allocation of victims, suspects, and accused persons to the category of “vulnerable persons”. Due to the scope of the article, the vulnerability identification procedure falls outside this research. EU and national legislation suggest that early identification of vulnerability allows for the provision of specific protection measures during criminal proceedings. Analysis of EU and Lithuanian normative acts suggests that minor victims are a priori considered vulnerable and specific protection measures must apply in their case. Meanwhile, the vulnerability of adult victims and their specific protection needs are not assessed at any stage of the proceedings in Lithuania, although the Code of Criminal Procedure provides for certain specific protection measures for victims who, due to a public hearing or questioning, may be subject to “psychological trauma or other serious consequences”. Given future EU requirements concerning suspected or accused children and current recommendations concerning the consideration of suspected or accused adults as vulnerable participants of the proceedings, Lithuanian legal regulations in this area must be improved.
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