Draft United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems

April 30, 2012 at 11:42 am Leave a comment

The UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice has recently adopted Draft Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems. Undoubtedly, this is an important step towards recognition and respect of the right to access to justice in criminal proceedings. The Principles and Guidelines aim to ensure that the States adopt measures and establish systems which effectively provide suspects, defendants but also victims of crimes with timely and efficient access to legal information, advice and representation. Recognising the gaps between norms and real life the document calls not only for normative recognition of legal aid systems but also for proper funding and management of the national legal aid systems.

“Access to a properly funded legal aid scheme is vital if those with minimal financial means are to access justice. Now, thanks to years of work and diplomatic efforts,  UN member states have agreed that legal aid schemes are not just optional; they should be a basic part of any country’s justice system.”

It is also recognized that access to justice in criminal proceedings should be guaranteed through various measures. In that respect the draft Principles and Guidelines emphasise on the need to diversify sources of legal assistance:

” The Principles and Guidelines do not endorse any specific model but encourage States to guarantee the basic right to legal aid of suspects and the accused, while expanding it to include others who come into contact with the criminal justice system and diversifying its delivery schemes.”

According to the Principles and Guidelines States should take responsibility to guarantee:
–  provision of sustainable funding for legal assistance schemes;
– recognize the role of paralegals (although the document sort of limits it to countries where there are not enough lawyers);
– effective oversight of legal aid providers;
– engage in partnership with non-state providers;
– facilitate rigorous data collection and research with respect to the supply and demand of legal assistance.

Read the Draft United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems here

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Entry filed under: Access to Justice, Human Rights, Paralegals.

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