Saturday, 19 April 2014

LN: Many Czechs cannot afford hiring defence lawyers

25 April 2013

Prague, April 24 (CTK) - Thousands of people in the Czech Republic need lawyers' help, but they cannot afford hiring them, daily Lidove noviny (LN) writes yesterday, adding that a law that would deal with the situation is lacking.

"It is one of big debts that the needed law has not yet been passed," ombudsman Pavel Varvarovsky told LN.

He said the state relies on lawyers' willingness to help people in need, which is far from sufficient, however.

Besides, people should have a right to help not only at courts, but also in relation to authorities, Varvarovsky said.

LN writes that the law is also called for by defence lawyers.

The law on the legal profession does say lawyers should provide aid for free where this is justified by the income and property situation of the applicant, but this service, referred to as "pro bono," is missing, LN writes.

"Defence lawyers have been substituting for the state in the civil justice sphere for more than 20 years while the services of "ex offo" lawyers are naturally used in criminal justice," LN quotes Czech Bar Association spokeswoman Iva Chaloupkova as saying.

LN writes that no exact numbers of such cases exist. The association only registers the cases in which it determined which lawyer should help in a specific case. There are hundreds of such cases annually, with the costs running into many millions of crowns, LN writes.

The Czech Republic is one of few EU countries not having any complete system of free legal aid.

Besides free aid, the Czech Bar Association also provides 15-minute legal consultations, usually once a week, at the seat of regional courts or in defence lawyers' offices, LN writes.

These do not deal with specific cases, however, they can only indicate how a particular situation can be solved under law. The waiting lists are quickly full while the aid is often needed quickly, the paper writes.

Varvarovsky says the Czech Republic must deal with the problem also with regard for its international commitments, LN writes.

"I am doing the sole thing with which I have been left: I am recommending to the Chamber of Deputies that it should ask the government for a solution," Varvarovsky said.

Justice Minister Pavel Blazek reacted on Tuesday neither to a phone call nor to an SMS question of whether this government will do something about the problem before its term expires in mid-2014, LN writes.

($1=19.945 crowns)

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