Laws affect us all. They affect much of what we do; from the moment, we have breakfast until the moment we sleep at night. Laws and regulations affect the quality of what we eat the safety of our streets, our workplace conditions, the buildings we live in or rent and our access to essential services. The rule of law, a fundamental condition for democracy requires, that the law is applied equally and fairly, so that no one is above the law and that the law is capable of being known to everyone, so that everyone can comply. Access to legal advice and confidence in the laws administration are key elements of adherence to the Rule of Law.
As you know, I hope, the next International Legal Aid Group conference will be held in Johannesburg from the 14-16th June 2017. We have been to look at the venue and accommodation and I am delighted with the options available to us. Good hotel accommodation in South Africa is very reasonably priced – as is the wonderful food.
In France, the system of legal aid is decentralised and the decision to provide legal aid is made by legal aid councils located at each Court. The distribution of the money to the lawyers is made by the national Bar Council and the local Bar Association. There is no merit test for the claim, which is only rejected by the legal aid Council if there is a manifest inadmissibility or a manifest unfoundness.
Talking about a Belgian legal aid system facing the sixth state reform of 2014 is a rather difficult challenge. Legal aid on the first line is done by advocates, comprehending giving legal information. A first, rather small legal advice and referral system, is now the jurisdiction of the French and Dutch Communities. It no longer belongs to the federal state. The Flemish Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family Jo Vandeurzen (CS&V Christian Democrats) seems to situate the first line legal aid within general welfare. In his policy statement of October 16th 2015, the Minister has chosen a strong embedding of the first line legal aid within a general welfare approach.
With a team of psychologists of the University of Twente’s department of Psychology of Conflict, Risk and Safety, we are looking at individual experiences in legal conflicts, to better understand legal aid user’s interactions with innovative legal aid. Over the past three years, we have studied the needs of legal aid users in asymmetric conflicts, the effects of Rechtwijzer 1.0 in divorce conflicts, and examined effects of framing of online interventions in asymmetric conflicts.
The Finnish legal aid system is a mixed model system. Legal aid is provided by both private lawyers (solicitors and licensed legal counsel) and public legal aid attorneys from State Legal Aid Offices. Legal aid is primarily intended for those who do not have insurance for legal expenses and cannot afford to buy legal services by themselves.