Quality of Legal Aid in Ukraine to be assessed

For the first time in the existence of Ukraine’s bar the quality of defence in criminal proceedings is to be assessed. More than 100 advocates from all over Ukraine who give free secondary legal aid have agreed for the quality of their work to be studied.

The study as part of a pilot project is being undertaken by lawyers with many years experience. They will familiarize themselves with the material of the case; take interviews of the project participants and directly observe how they run cases in court.

The project is the preparatory stage for wide monitoring of the legal aid system planned for autumn this year in order to identify the ways and prospects for its further development.

The Legal Aid Coordination Centre supported the initiative from human rights organizations and agreed to provide organizational help for the project without interfering in the actual process of assessment.

According to Arkady Bushchenko, UHHRU Executive Director,  they hope to prepare methodology and tools which will help the bar community to create their own independent system of nongovernmental quality monitoring of legal aid.

Andriy Vyshnevsky, Director of the Legal Aid Coordination Centre explains: “We believe it necessary to create the conditions for preparing and adopting standards of practice when providing legal aid in criminal proceedings, as well as criteria for assessment by bar lawyers themselves of how these standards are being observed. This will help the bar community use internal tools for self-organization to achieve a general increase in the level of profession while the government carries out the function set down in law of introducing quality standards for providing legal aid in the legal realm. “

The Executive Director of the Ukrainian Foundation for Legal Aid, Mykola Sioma stresses that “ the question of the quality of legal aid in Ukraine is extremely topical since it concerns not only those working in the sphere of legal application, but each member of the public directly. On 1 January 2013 the government began fully ensuring the constitutional right to defence and the first results of the functioning of the newly-created system demonstrate an immediate public need in receiving the legal aid guaranteed by the state”.

Advocates’ participation in the pilot project is voluntary and information covered by professional confidentiality will not go beyond the specialist community.

Its results will help to improve the rules for joint activities by defenders and raise public confidence in legal aid guaranteed by the government.

The assessment will take place from 5 July 2013 and will be carried out as part of a project by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and the Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation.

The project is carried out with the support of the MATRA programme of the Netherlands Embassy in Ukraine and the International Renaissance Foundation.

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