Croatia: study of the implementation of the Legal Aid Act

April 3, 2011 at 9:52 pm 1 comment

Since 2009 Croatia has a Legal Aid Act which extend the state funded legal aid to a number of civil and administrative matters. Unlike other countries, Croatia preferred a dual system in which criminal legal aid is regulated by the Code of criminal procedures and the non-criminal advice and representation is regulated by the 2009 LLA but also in specialized laws. Pursuant to LLA the Croatian citizens and residents can request state-funded legal assistance in case they experience one of the broadly defined categories – i.e. personal status, employment disputes, social benefits, housing etc.

The limitation of the scope of legal problem covered by LLA has been criticized in a recent assessment of the implementation of the law.  In the first year of the application of LAA half of the requests for legal assistances concerned family matters, followed by housing and means for work (13%), enforcemen (12%), and domestic violence (5%). Interestingly, social benefits, labour and consumer disputes make an small proportion of all requests.  The study led by Prof. Jon Johnsen recommends among other things that “primary legal aid ought to cover all types of legal problems. A survey should be carried out to map the need for primary legal aid.” Discussing the scope of the legal representation funded by the state the study recommends:

“For secondary legal aid CLAA ought to define a number of problem types of high welfare importance that are covered without further qualifications unless they are manifestly ill founded.  All other categories of problems also ought to qualify after a fair merits test if access to the courts is of importance to the applicant and the prospects are fair.  The „existential issues” criterion should be removed from 5(1) CLAA.”

The assessment also fins a mismatch between the means test specified in LAA and the actual poverty level in the country. “Under all these conditions, it seems that a significant part of the people who live at the edge of poverty would not qualify under the criteria of Art. 8 CLAA.”  Consequently, the study recommends adjustment of the means test in accordance with the case law of the ECtHR.

Another area in which the assessment recomends improvement is the process of delivery. Requesting legal assisstance is complex and uncertain. Applicants have to deal with different types of forms which require plenty of information and details. An applicant must also have a fairly extensive knowledge of the institutional arrangement of the legal aid scheme. Moreover, there is little difference in the application for legal aid in difficult cases and cases which only requre consultation.

Read the assessment of the implementation of the Croatian Legal Aid Act here

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Entry filed under: Access to Justice, Croatia, Legal Aid, Research.

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