Universiteit Maastricht

Personal profile page

prof. dr. T.N.B.M. Spronken (Taru)


Professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure at Maastricht University and Advocate General at the Supreme Court in the Netherlands

Faculty / Department
  • Law, Criminal Law and Criminology
  • Law

Phone number: +31 43 3882778

Location: D1.208

prof. dr. T.N.B.M.  Spronken


- criminal procedure;
- criminal defence;
- human rights;
- European cooperation in criminal matters.

Professional Career History

Following her graduation from the Utrecht University Faculty of Law in 1979, she worked as advocate and defence counsel in private practice in Maastricht the Netherlands. From 1987 onwards she was lecturer in Criminal Law at the University of Maastricht. She is the founder of the University legal aid clinic (Advocatenpraktijk Universiteit Maastricht) in 1988 and was coordinator of this legal aid clinic during the first eight years.
In 2002 she became Professor of Criminal Defence and in 2005 Professor of Criminal Law at the University of Maastricht.

In september 2013 she became Advocate General at the Supreme Court of the Netherlands and she remains part-time professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure at Maastricht University.

Research Profile

In her research she focuses on the implications of EU cooperation in criminal matters for procedural rights.  She has published extensively on criminal defence rights (i.a. E. Cape, Z. Namoradze, R. Smith, T.N.B.M. Spronken,  (eds.) Effective Criminal Defence in Europe, Intersentia Antwerp - Oxdford – Portland, 2010; T.N.B.M. Spronken, EU-wide Letter of Rights in Criminal Proceedings: Towards Best Practice, Intersentia Antwerp 2010) and she has led an international research project Suspects in Police Detention that aims to provide empirical data on legal assistance in the phase of police interrogation in the post-Salduz era (J. Blackstock, E.Cape, J. Hodgson, A. Ogorodova, T. Spronken, Inside Police Custody. An  Empirical Account of Suspects' Rights in Four Jurisdictions, Intersentia Antwerp 2014).

She has developed an international comparative research-line and network of researchers from various European countries that have been involved in the research projects mentioned below.

Research Projects

1. Procedural Rights in criminal proceedings: Existing Level of Safeguards in the European Union (conducting research). This study assessed the levels of provision of procedural rights afforded to suspected persons in criminal proceedings throughout the EU, commissioned by the European Commission based on a questionnaire sent by the Commission to the Ministries of Justice and Home Affairs in the Member States containing questions regarding existing criminal justice arrangements in the Member States. In the report specific reference is made to the procedural rights covered by the Proposal for a Council Framework Decision (“FD”) on certain procedural rights in criminal proceedings throughout the EU of 28 April 2004, in order to establish which Member States met the Commission’s proposed minimum standards and to identify any potential lacunae in relation to each of the areas of procedural rights covered by the proposed FD.

Publication: 2005, details see under publications

2."Legal protection of persons suspected of crime at the investigative stage in the EU", (co-ordinator, initiator and conducting research) financed under the AGIS programme of the European Commission. Duration of the project: May 2005-May 2007. Partners Warwick Law School (Prof. Hodgson) and University of the West of England, Bristol (Prof. Cape). Through the establishment of a co-ordinated international research group, this study provided a contextual understanding of the criminal defence role across different European jurisdictions, considering the legal and procedural rules in place and the implications of the pre-trial process on the trial stage.  

Publication: 2007, details below under publications.

3. “Status Quaestionis, Questionnaire on the Provision of Legal Interpreting and Translation in the EU” (participant and expert) with financial support of the AGIS programme 2006 of the European Commission. This project provided more detailed and objective information on existing provisions on legal interpretation and translation throughout the EU by means of an EU-wide questionnaire. The results were published in Erik Hertog and Jan van Gucht (eds.), Status Quaestionis, Questionnaire on the Provision of Legal Interpreting and Translation in the EU, Intersentia Antwerp-Oxford-Portland 2008, SBN 978-90-5095-804-2.

4. EU Study on Procedural Rights: Existing Level of Safeguards in Member States – 2009  update (co-ordinator and conducting research). This study – commissioned by the European Commission - was a follow up to the study “’Procedural Rights in Criminal Proceedings: Existing level of safeguards in the EU”, carried out in 2005. This follow up study obtained up-to-date information on the same subject for all 27 Member States and to analyse that information with specific reference to the provisions of the draft Framework Decision on Procedural Rights in Criminal Proceedings in the EU, rejected in 2007, inter alia because of the argument of some Member States that the ECHR adequately protects the rights of suspects and accused persons within the EU.

Publication: 2009, details below under publications.

5. “Effective defence rights in the EU and access to justice: investigating and promoting best practice”, (main applicant and co-ordinator). This study was financed under the Criminal Justice 2007 Action Grants of the European Commission. This project was a joint initiative of JUSTICE, the University of the West of England, Open Society Justice Initiative and Maastricht University. The goal of the research-project was to explore, backed by empirical investigation, the right to effective defence in criminal proceedings for indigent defendants across nine European jurisdictions and to provide empirical information on the extent to which procedural rights that are indispensable for an effective defence are provided in practice, such as the right to information, the right of access to a lawyer and the right to an interpreter. The study sought to define the content and scope of the right to effective defence and the corresponding government obligation to ensure the implications of this right in general, and to indigent defendants in particular, based on the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and best practice standards from countries in the EU.

Publication: 2010, details see below under publications.

6. EU-wide Letter of Rights in Criminal Proceedings: Towards Best Practice

(co-ordination and research). A study funded by the European Commission and the German Government (Partners German Federal Ministry of Justice, Austrian Ministry of Justice, European Criminal Bar Association, Deutsche Richterbund and the Council of Europe). The goal of the research project was to explore: 1. Whether and to what extent suspects are informed in writing about their rights in criminal proceedings in the 27 Member States of the EU; 2. How this practice related to the requirements of a fair trial and more specifically the right to information under Art. 6 para. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights; 3. Whether it is possible to develop a model Letter of Rights to be applicable throughout the EU.

Publication: 2010, details below under publications.

7. Prevention of Torture in the Peoples Republic of China (participant and co-ordinator of the research). The project runs from 2009-2012 and is funded by the European Commission. Partners are Great Britain China Centre, The Rights Practice, Renmin University School of Law.


The overall objective of this research is to contribute to the prevention of torture and other forms of ill-treatment in China as well as to move China towards the consideration of signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (CAT).

The specific objective of this project is to strengthen the legal and practical mechanisms for enhanced accountability of law enforcement agencies in the prevention of torture through promoting external monitoring, ethical investigations and robust complaint mechanisms. The main activities are research into policy and legislative reform with regard to the exclusionary rule; development of practical mechanisms to prevent torture in detention (lay visiting schemes and complaint procedures); police training (interrogation methods).

Published in 2012, details below under publications

8. Project Legal Standing (‘locus standi’) before the EU and Member States’ courts

(conduct research). Research project on behalf of the European Parliament

The aim of this study that runs from December 2011 - July 2012 is to provide an in-depth and objective comparative analysis of national legal theory approaches and concrete provisions regulating locus standi before civil, criminal and administrative courts of some selected legal systems, as well as locus standi before EU courts.

My part of the research considers the locus standi of victims of crime in criminal proceedings.

9. Project Translation parts of Effective Criminal Defence Rights into Chinese

Partners: Public Interest and Development Law Institute of Wuhan University, funded by the Open Society Foundations – China Programme.

Since 1996, China has established over 3000 legal aid centres throughout the country which provide free legal services including criminal defence services to the poorest of China’s 1.3 billion citizens. Nonetheless, a majority of criminal defendants receive legal representation that falls below accepted standards. Accordingly a Chinese version of the book E. Cape, Z. Namoradze, R. Smith and T. Spronken, Effective Criminal Defence in Europe, published by Intersentia Antwerp-Oxford-Portland in 2010 focused on European models, is relevant as a legal resource for legal aid defenders in China in that it provides an exhaustively researched analysis that identifies and articulates widely recognised effective criminal defence strategies that can be used both to energise discussion of local criminal defence standards and also as a model for meaningful reform of those standards that local legal aid defenders feel are not adequate. In short, we see it as a way to share the experience of the European criminal defence community with their colleagues in China. This project has been finalised in June 2012.

Published in 2012, details below under publications

11. Project "Procedural rights of suspects in police detention in the EU: empirical investigation and promoting best practice". (co-ordinator and project-leader)

Project financed by the Europese Commission Criminal Justice Programme 2010 JUST/2010/JPEN/AG/1578.

The overall goal of this two year project (June 2011-June 2013) is to contribute to the successful implementation of  the Strasbourg case law regarding legal assistance during police interrogation (Salduz case law) and EU legislation on the procedural rights of suspects in criminal matters in the target countries and EU wide. In particular, the project aims to strengthen protection of suspects' rights at the most critical stage of criminal proceedings, that of police detention.

The project objectives are:

1. Empirical research into the application of provisions purporting to safeguard criminal suspects during police detention in three EU Member States (UK (with a focus on England and Wales), France, the Netherlands);

2. Development of practice-oriented training materials for judicial actors involved in the police detention process: lawyers, police officers, prosecutors and judges using the outcomes of the empirical data;

3. Development and dissemination of recommendations for practical measures to ensure better enforcement of the EU procedural rights’ instruments that are envisaged in the Stockholm Programme. 

Partners are: Avon and Somerset Constabulary UK, JUSTICE UK, Open Society Institute-Budapest/Open Society Justice Initiative; University of Warwick (UK), University of the West of England (UK).

Published in 2014, details below under publications



Extra Activities

She is executive editor of the weekly journal Nederlands Juristenblad, editor of Nieuwsbrief Strafrecht and annotator of European Human Rights Cases.