The establishment of peer review will destroy the credibility to the bar – Lydia Izovitova
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It was announced by the Head of the Ukrainian National Bar Association and Bar Council of Ukraine (hereinafter – the UNBA and the BCU) Lydia Izovitova during the round table "Improvement of Legislation on Free Legal Aid in Ukraine", which took place online at the initiative of the Council of Europe Project "Support to the Judiciary of Ukraine in Ensuring Better Access to Justice" together with the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy.
The event is dedicated to the discussion of the bill №5107 "On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine to facilitate access to free legal aid and improve the quality of its provision”.
"The changes related to the peer review are, in fact, designed to destroy the credibility of the bar," the UNBA Head has stressed.
She noted that the current law "On Free Legal Aid" from 2012 stipulated that control over the quality of such assistance by attorneys should be carried out by the relevant commissions operating under the Bar Councils of the regions. In each region of Ukraine, according to the law, such commissions are created. The Head of the UNBA and the BCU underlined that this is confirmed by European organizations which have analyzed the free legal aid system in Ukraine.
"If you look at the report of the Council of Europe, which is being analyzed today, it says that the experts of the Council of Europe were in the UNBA, they know that such quality assessment commissions have been established, that such commissions operate in all regions. However, the Deputy Minister of Justice, whom we heard today, falsely stated that there are no such commissions, " - Lydia Izovitova noted.
The high quality of assistance provided by free legal aid attorneys is evidenced by the official statistics published by the Ministry of Justice.
“According to the statistics of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, only 0.6% of complaints against free legal aid lawyers received by quality assessment commissions from free legal aid centers. It shows one thing: a very high standard and a very high level of free legal aid in the state. At the same time, this is an evidence that our commissions work at the expense of our attorneys' fees and there is no need to spend the budget funds to create appropriate commissions in the Ministry of Justice, whose members will additionally review free legal aid attorneys,” - she said.
The legal community is concerned that in the event of introduction of the peer review, an attorney who is required to maintain legal secrecy, will be obliged to disclose not only the documents but also the legal position agreed with the client.
"Nowadays, the state, using such tools, is trying to interfere in the legal position of an attorney through its employees. Do not forget that this incurs the criminal liability. Every attorney knows what it is like to keep an attorney-client privilege. And the fact that even today, in contracts with clients, attorneys try to write in small letters that the client in advance agrees that his/her documents can be checked, and an attorney-client privilege can be disclosed – this constitutes coercion of a person to disclose this privilege and an attempt by the state not to protect but to form that legal position which will be convenient to the state. This is not the protection of human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine, " - Lydia Izovitova stressed.
The Head of the UNBA and the BCU called on the participants of the round table to consider the position of the legal community on the proposed changes to the free legal aid system.
It shall be recalled that in April the BCU called for the bills “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts Concerning Simplification of Access to Free Legal Aid and Improving the Quality of Its Provision” dated February 19, 2021 to №5107 and “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts Concerning simplification of access to free legal aid and improvement of the quality of its provision ” dated March 9 of 2021 for №5107-1 were sent for revision, as they were prepared and registered without the participation of the legal community.
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